Los Angeles, CA – Sam Pullen, 31, was arrested yesterday in Los Angeles at a sit-in at the Blue Cross health insurance office. He is refusing to give information to police, vowing to stay in jail until Blue Cross stops denying care to those who need it most. He is being supported by the group Mobilization for Health Care for All, which coordinated sit-ins and rallies in nine cities across the country yesterday in which 54 people were arrested to end insurance abuse and win health care for all.
Pullen was inspired to action by his mother, who was denied coverage for a lifesaving bone marrow transplant by Blue Cross when he was a teenager. Weakened by her cancer treatments, Pullen’s mother staged a one-woman sit-in at the insurance company office, resulting in the approval of the transplant that extended her life for years. Thanks to the transplant, she lived long enough to see Pullen reach 18 years of age.
Here is Sam’s story.
“My name is Sam Pullen and I will be coordinating the sit-in in Los Angeles on October 15. I am willing to risk getting arrested because I have been personally affected by the Blue Cross insurance company’s policies that place profits before patients.
The most traumatic struggle my family has ever gone through was when my mother was sick with multiple myeloma cancer during my teenage years. Although she was covered by Blue Cross/Blue Shield insurance, her doctors doctors at the Mayo Clinic told her that her only option for a remission was to undergo a bone marrow transplant- a highly risky procedure. I still remember gathering around our dining room table for a family meeting where my mother explained that if the transplant wasn’t successful, she may get sick and die within a few months. She was prepared to risk it in order to have a few more years with her children and husband. Yet she asked us if we were ready to risk losing her if things didn’t go well. After an emotional discussion, we made the decision together that we would support her having a bone marrow transplant, no matter what the outcome.
Then Blue Cross denied coverage for the treatment her doctors had recommended. My mom then had to take up the fight for her life with her insurance company. Instead of focusing her energy on preparing for the transplant and healing, she had to battle with a bureaucracy that cared only about profits. She made phone calls, wrote letters, and finally met with an insurance company representative and asked him what he would do if he were the one sick with cancer. She wouldn’t leave until Blue Cross agreed to cover her bone marrow transplant.
My mother’s bone marrow transplant was successful, and during her remission I shared the most meaningful years I can remember with my Mom. Yet after a five-year battle with cancer, my mother died at age 45 when I was 18 years old.
On October 15, I will honor my mother’s spirit by engaging in a sit-in in Los Angeles with a group of courageous individuals who are fed up with the the state of our health system and the greedy insurance companies that care more about money than people. We will demand that insurance companies immediately grant approval for treatment of all their members with life-threatening conditions.
We will be part of one of the largest campaigns of civil disobedience since the civil rights movement. Generations of Americans have fought to obtain health care as a guaranteed right for all, and we are determined to win victory at last. Over 1000 people from every major city will be arrested if insurance companies refuse to meet our demands. We will not back down until profit-driven insurance corporations no longer stand between the American people and the health care they deserve!”