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Conversation with Elected Officials takes place via Zoom

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It’s hard to steer conversations away from the coronavirus debacle these days and that included talk at the annual Conversation with Elected Officials 2020 on Friday sponsored by the Bucks County Women’s Advocacy Coalition (BCWAC).

The conference, “The Economics of Women and Work: Lift the Barriers, Lift the Economy,” had to take the video route for the first time in its history due to the pandemic, which became the focus of the discussion.

Participants of the two-hour, call-in webinar focused on facing barriers posed by virus contamination and surviving a resulting free-fall economy.

Led by BCWAC President Kathy Beveridge, speakers included Barbara Price of the American Association of University Women (AAUW), and Antoinette Kraus, director of the Pennsylvania Health Access Network (PHAN).

Contributing speakers included Bucks County Commissioners Gene DiGirolamo, Robert Harvie and Diane Ellis-Marseglia; Julie Dugery, Network of Victim Assistance (NOVA) coordinator of volunteer and community outreach; state Reps. Wendy Ullman (D-143rd), Perry Warren (D-31st), Tina Davis (D-141st) and Wendi Thomas (R-178th); state Sen. Maria Collett (D-12th); U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-8th); also spokespersons for state Sen. Steve Santarseiro (D-10th) and U.S. Sen. Bob Casey.

“There’s a growing realization that this (coronavirus) crisis is only a few days old and people are already suffering. It just shows how broken our system is,” said state Rep. Warren.

Kraus of PHAN agreed, saying “It exemplifies our fragmented, broken health care system.” She said a recent survey showed four out of five people said they feared they won’t be able to afford health insurance in the future.

“Where would we be if today if (the late U.S. Sen. John) McCain had not cast a thumbs-down (tie-breaking) vote” on legislation that would have prevented Medicaid expansion, asked Commissioner DiGirolamo. “If that had passed, Pennsylvania would have had a lot less for Medicaid” to fight the spending virus.

Now, 700,000 Pennsylvanians have been able to get Medicaid coverage, added Kraus. However, one in five people can’t afford to refill their prescriptions.

“We all need to work to change things in how they work — or don’t work,” Price of AAUW said.

Commissioner Ellis-Marseglia noted that as of March 20 there were 13 cases of the virus in Bucks County, predicting that number will only increase.

“There’s no one person who has all the answers right now, so we need everyone’s input,” Rep. Fitzpatrick said.

Rep. Thomas reported she received 500 emails overnight about closures due to the virus.

“There’s a requirement to revisit our priorities and take care of those in greater need,” Rep. Ullman concluded. “We need to find the wisdom to deal with this.”


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