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In His Mother's Footsteps: California Man Jailed for Five Days After Sit-In at Blue Cross Office in Los Angeles

On Thursday, Sam Pullen was arrested at the Los Angeles offices of the insurance giant Blue Cross. He refused to give his information to police and vowed to remain in prison until Blue Cross agreed to hear demands that it stop denying doctor-recommended medical treatment to seriously ill patients. Despite his resistance, Pullen was finally ordered released from jail on Monday, against his will. In protesting Blue Shield, Sam Pullen was following in the footsteps of his late mother, who was diagnosed with cancer when he was a teenager. Leanna Bell staged a one-person sit-in in front of Blue Cross after the company denied her coverage for a bone marrow transplant. Blue Cross gave in, and the transplant helped extend her life for several years.

Guest: Sam Pullen, Arrested last week at sit-in organized by Mobilization for Health Care for All at the offices of the insurance company Blue Cross in Los Angeles. He vowed to remain in jail until Blue Cross agreed to hear demands on approving all doctor-recommended medical treatment for people with life-threatening conditions. He was forcibly released from prison on Monday.

SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: The congressional debate over healthcare reform has moved behind closed doors. Over the past week, lawmakers and White House officials have met privately to merge different committee measures into one bill for each chamber. It remains unclear if final legislation will even include a pared-down, government-backed public insurance option. But that hasn't stopped activists from continuing to call for more substantial changes to the nation's healthcare system.

Last Thursday, at least fifty-four people were arrested during nationwide sit-ins in front of the offices of health insurance companies. The group Mobilization for Health Care for All organized the protests in cities including New York, Washington, Phoenix, Palm Beach, Portland, Boston, Cleveland and Reno.

AMY GOODMAN: Our next guest was among those who took part in the day of protest. But unlike the dozens of others who got arrested, he remained in jail throughout the weekend until Monday evening. Sam Pullen was arrested at the Los Angeles offices of the insurance giant Blue Cross. He refused to give his information to police and vowed to remain in prison until Blue Cross agreed to hear demands that it stop denying doctor-recommended medical treatment to seriously ill patients. Despite his resistance, Sam Pullen was finally ordered released from jail on Monday, against his will.

In protesting Blue Shield, Sam Pullen was following in the footsteps of his late mother, who was diagnosed with cancer when he was a teenager. Leanna Bell staged a one-person sit-in in front of Blue Cross after the company denied her coverage for a bone marrow transplant. Blue Cross gave in. The transplant helped extend her life for several years.

Sam Pullen joins us now via Democracy Now! video stream from Los Angeles. This is his first interview since his release from jail on Monday night.

Sam, welcome to Democracy Now! Just tell us what happened. Tell us what made you decide to go sit in front of Blue Cross, Blue Shield.

SAM PULLEN: Thanks very much, Amy.

I participated in the sit-in on October 15th, because I believe that healthcare is a right and should be available for all of us, And the insurance companies are really the death panels that are affecting our loved ones [inaudible] people by denying care and trying to kill the reform that's being discussed in the Congress, as well.

And my mother experienced that personally when Blue Cross denied her coverage for her bone marrow transplant. After she had gone through radiation and chemotherapy, she was told that a bone marrow transplant was the only thing that could save her life. And when she was denied by Blue Cross, she went to Blue Cross offices and demanded that they cover her. And they-and she said to the representative, "What would you do if it was you who was sick with cancer? Wouldn't you do everything you could, if you could have a few more years with your children?" So, she inspired me to stand up.

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