Congresswoman Summer Lee Holds Community Roundtable with HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra on Lowering Health Care Costs for Pittsburgh Seniors

(PITTSBURGH, PA) – Congresswoman Summer Lee (PA-12) held a Community Round Table on Lowering Health Care Costs for Pittsburgh Seniors with Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary, Xavier Becerra, community leaders, health advocates, seniors, and homecare workers. 

Rep. Lee and Secretary Becerra, the first Latino HHS Secretary were joined by Dr. Ala Stanford, Regional Director, Region III, Department of Health and Human Services, Tinisha Hunt, CEO Macedonia FACE (Family And Community Enrichment), Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, Erin Dalton, Director of Allegheny County Department of Human Services, Linda Doman – executive Director, Eastern Area Adult Services, Stefanie Small, Clinical Director at Jewish Family & Community Services,  Dr. Andrea Fox, Medical Director at Squirrel Hill Health Center, as well as a local senior and homecare worker to discuss how Pittsburgh seniors have benefited from the following new programs under the lower prescription drug laws included in the Inflation Reduction Act–most consequential piece of health legislation since the Affordable Care Act:

  1. $35 cap on each Medicare-covered insulin 
  2. Free preventive vaccines under Medicare Part D 
  3. Manufacturers must pay rebates if their price increases exceed inflation
  4. Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices for the first time

During the panel, Congresswoman Summer Lee said, “Given that it is Black History Month, this is a fitting setting to both highlight the robust and active senior community in this neighborhood, and the amazing work that our host, Macedonia FACE, is doing here at the Senior Center. But this location in the Hill District is also a reminder about the history of discrimination, disparity and inequity in how our government has left the needs of so many of our black, brown, poor and marginalized communities unmet, and that these shortfalls are still apparent in our community today. We gather today to celebrate the Inflation Reduction Act’s lowering of the cost of prescription drug prices for those on Medicare, for including free life-saving vaccines for Medicare Part D users, and for holding drugmakers accountable to our seniors. Yet as we promote positive gains for our aging population, we remain vigilant and committed to addressing gaps in care and equity as we listen to the stories of our local leaders, workers and seniors.”

Secretary Becerra said, “We want folks to know that we fought for these programs to lower prescription drug costs because we don’t want you to get ripped off. Americans are still paying two to three times more for those prescription drugs than folks in other countries even if the drug was made here in America. We have more work to do, but with President Biden’s leadership and with Congresswoman Lee at the forefront, we hope we can get some of these things done for Pittsburgh Seniors.”

Rep. Lee, Secretary Becerra, and the panel also discussed the health challenges and disparities of folks in Western PA, especially Black, brown, poor and marginalized communities – and what additional actions must be taken to meet the needs of the community and guarantee quality, affordable, health care for all. 

The community health advocates on the panel included:

Deloris Gavins, a lifelong resident of the Hill district and member of the Macedonia FACE Active for Life Senior Center shared her personal story about the enrichment she receives from senior services and the benefits she’s now receiving under the new lower drug cost provisions of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) 

Linda Orndoff, Homecare Worker, SIEU Member, and a full time caregiver for her mother and grandson also joined to share her story. Linda quit her previous job to take care of them in 2015, and didn’t start getting paid for the work until 2019. Her mother, who is 88 years old, has multiple medical problems, mobility issues, senility, and some dementia. Her grandson has autism and several other health issues. Linda works 72 hours a week, with no days off, no sick days, no health insurance and no retirement benefits. She is 61 years old. When she got COVID in 2021 she almost died, and could not afford to go to a hospital without insurance. She is unable to cover her bills on the money she makes, and is also scared of not being able to afford to retire when she is no longer able to work. She’s tried to find other caregivers to help take care of her mother and grandson, but there is an alarming shortage of caregivers right now. No one will choose this job as a career path since the pay is so low and it doesn’t come with benefits.

The panel included:

  • Erin Dalton, Director of Allegheny County Department of Human Services, which works to strengthen families and communities through a network of social services, care and support. DHS serves over 200,000 people each year through its community-based programs that prevent harm and address needs for family support and child development
  • Tinisha Hunt, CEO Macedonia FACE (Family And Community Enrichment) For the past seven years Ms. Hunt has been responsible for the implementation and oversight of high quality services to more than 3,000 people who include families with children, individuals in need and senior citizens within the Pittsburgh region
  • Delores Gavins, Senior from Macedonia FACE  resident of the Hill District. She is a business owner and a licensed massage therapist with a MHMR certification. Ms. Gavins is an active member of the Macedonia FACE Active for Life Senior Center.
  • Linda Doman, Executive Director, Eastern Area Adult Serviceswhich provides home care, protective services, service coordination, home delivered meals, and senior center services for older adults in the eastern and southwest suburbs of Allegheny County.
  • Dr. Ala Stanford, Regional Director, Region III, Department of Health and Human Services
  • Stefanie Small, Clinical Director, Jewish Family & Community Services
  • Dr. Andrea Fox, Medical Director, Squirrel Hill Health Center, a comprehensive primary healthcare center providing care regardless of their income level or insurance status.

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