Democracy Soup

Making sense out of the world of politics

Sam Pullen stayed in jail to draw attention to those denied health care to win Wings of Justice

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Originally published on on October 21, 2009

Sam Pullen

Sam Pullen’s fight with the health care system has sparked a considerable amount of publicity in recent days. But this fight has been going on for over a decade. And this focus is what caused Pullen to spend the last few days in jail.

When Pullen was a teenager, his mother was diagnosed with cancer. She needed a bone marrow transplant. Blue Cross/Blue Shield said the treatment was “experimental.” So his mother, Leanna Bell, staged a one-woman sit-in until the insurance company agreed to pay for her treatment. She got the treatment, which extended her life for a couple of years.

Pullen was arrested last Thursday, October 15, in Los Angeles in a protest that would, in Pullen’s words, “demand that insurance companies immediately grant approval for treatment of all their members with life-threatening conditions.”

After the arrest, Pullen refused to give his name, so he stayed in jail. Pullen resolved to stay in jail until Blue Cross would agree to meet to talk. Pullen stayed in jail until Monday where, against his will, he was released. The charges were dropped.

Pullen’s spark clearly comes from his mother, but there is the current crisis hanging over our heads like the sword of Damascles. Who knows who might be next to suffer a similar fate?

The sad irony for Pullen is if it were to happen to him, he wouldn’t have an insurance company to argue with or protest to, because, you guessed it, Pullen doesn’t have health insurance.

Going to jail even with health insurance might not be the smartest thing to do, but to spend four days in jail with no health insurance is a risk.

But while in jail, Pullen was able to shed a light on how the health insurance crisis hit home in the jail cell. From Op-Ed News:

Pullen is uninsured. He explained that many of his fellow inmates are as well.

“I’m hanging out with all kinds of people who don’t have access to insurance,” Sam explained. “A lot of people have been affected by medical conditions that can’t be covered.”

While I interviewed him, he asked fellow inmates if they were for health care for all and if they would rather be arrested for a cause instead of whatever reason they are in jail for. The inmates yelled out “Yeah!” and “A cause!”

Bell’s inspiration convinced Pullen to fight back. “If you are being denied coverage by your insurance company and if your life is in danger, you need to fight. You need to stand up. You need to insist that you be covered.”

While his mother’s story is Pullen’s motivator, he full well knows that his isn’t the only horrible story out there.

As Pullen told Amy Goodman of Democracy Now!:

I believe there’s an important message for the American people, because so many people have been affected by the insurance companies. Almost everyone has a horror story of being denied coverage. And right now, my message to the listeners is that we don’t have to suffer in silence.

For standing up for your own story and so many others, and be willing to stay in jail for your cause, we award Sam Pullen the Wings of Justice award.

The protest in Los Angeles was one of nine simultaneous protests organized by Pullen and his organization, They will be out there protesting again on October 28.


Written by democracysoup

October 21, 2009 at 6:00 am

Posted in health care reform

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