Volunteers Confront Health Care Injustice on MLK Day

Posted January, 24 2014 by Amanda


From left: Dorsey Hill, Ellen Ray, and Adiya Taylor

Guest Post: Linda Ricci, Co-founder of Get Covered New York and M.A. Student of Health Advocacy at Sarah Lawrence College

Three years after his famous “I Have a Dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, Martin Luther King turned his call for justice to health care.  Dr. King told a small group of civil rights activists, the Medical Committee for Human Rights, “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.”

On this year’s MLK Day of Service, ten volunteers from Get Covered New York, a HCFANY partnership, did their part to confront this injustice at the Holy Apostles soup kitchen in Manhattan. There,they helped connect uninsured individuals to the new health insurance available under the Affordable Care Act.

At Holy Apostles, which serves twelve hundred meals every weekday, many of the uninsured are Medicaid-eligible. This is especially true now because of New York State’s Medicaid expansion to 138 percent of the Federal Poverty Level, which raises the threshold for eligibility to $15,856 for a household of one, with thresholds going up as the size of the household grows. Many of the very low-income people being served meals at soup kitchens do not have phones to make appointments with one of the region’s Navigators, who provide free enrollment services. So, Get Covered New York volunteers gave out information about walk-in hours at Community Service Society, from 10 am to 3:30 pm on Mondays at 105 East 22nd Street.  Volunteers also provided the CSS number for appointments: 888-614-5400.

While some of the volunteers at Holy Apostles have been to dozens of events, others, like Adiya Taylor, a student at Barnard, were first timers. She described her experience as motivating because, “I talked to people who were really excited and said ‘thank you for letting me know.’” Liza Lederer-Plaskett, who organizes Get Covered New York’s soup kitchens and other outreach from her position as a community organizer at Raising Women’s Voices, found her most satisfying encounter to be helping a man who recently lost his insurance and no longer has access to his badly-needed anti-psychotic medicine. And on this Martin Luther King Day, veteran volunteer Susan Donner sounded a lot like the iconic civil rights leader when she explained that her motive for volunteering to help people get coverage is because “I believe strongly that health care is a human right, not a privilege.”


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