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This Week in City Paper History

On June 5, 2012, news editor Charlie Deitch looks into the practice of some health-insurance companies refusing to pay for experimental treatments that could save patients’ lives. The story profiled terminal-cancer patient Brenda Brunner, who has since succumbed to the disease. As her health was declining, Brunner often wondered whether the experimental treatments she was denied early in her illness could have prolonged her life. “I started getting letters informing me that there was a clause in my policy that they wouldn’t pay for any medical treatments associated with clinical trials or experimental treatments,” said Brunner. “We couldn’t afford the costs otherwise and I had to leave the trial. I was absolutely devastated.” According to the American Cancer Society, of the 20 percent of cancer patients eligible to take part in a clinical trial, only 5 percent actually do, and part of the reason is cost. While 27 states have laws requiring insurance companies to pay for some costs associated with clinical trials, Pennsylvania is not one of them. “The insurance companies are against this because they hate mandates,” said state Rep. Tony DeLuca, the top Democrat on the state’s House Insurance Committee. “But when you get down to it, this shouldn’t be about money. It’s about saving people’s lives.” Added Brunner: “I’ve been through so many treatments that I’m just not healthy enough to be accepted anymore. You always wonder, ‘What if ... what if ...’ The worst part for me is that I’m never going to know.” Pennsylvania still doesn’t require insurance companies to pay for experimental treatments.

Late-Night Roundup (June 6, 1996)

CP writer Ralph Reiland reported on the efforts of Pittsburgh City Council to enact a curfew for city youths under the age of 17. The plan would cost more than $213,000 to implement; a majority of those funds would go to establishing and operating a Downtown detention center for wayward juvenile night-owls. Opponents said the proposed law was too broad-based, and lumped kids hanging out at places like the Beehive with kids who might be up to mischief. The law would eventually pass, but between 1996 and 2004, a total of five kids were picked up for curfew violations and the law was scuttled. It was revived and revised in 2009 by Mayor Luke Ravenstahl despite the fear that it might have kept the 13-year-old mayor from hitting the clubs.

Music Man (June 10, 1998)

CP contributor David Pulizzi told the story of Pittsburgh blues legend Chizmo Charles. At nearly 70 years old, Chizmo was on the cusp of releasing two albums, the first of his long career. How important was he to Pittsburgh’s blues scene? His longtime bandmate Gil Snyder explained: “In Chicago they have Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf. We have Chizmo. He’s the real thing, like Coca-Cola.” Making his first recordings so late in life didn’t seem strange to Chizmo, a life-long student of his craft: “See, you never know music. It’s always something different and you’re always learning. You think you know music, but you don’t know nothin’.”

Still Waiting (June 8, 2005)

Staff writer Brentin Mock delves into the long-asked question: “Is electing a black mayor outside the realm of possibility for this city?” For the first 189 years of municipal government in Pittsburgh, only white men and one woman (Sophie Masloff) had held the city’s top job. Even the African-American leaders interviewed by Mock weren’t so sure it could ever happen. “I don’t ever see a black mayor happening,” former candidate Hop Kendrick told Mock. Sadly, 11 years later, Kendrick’s words still ring true.

Public Dick (June 7, 2007)

By the time he ran for re-election in 2007, everyone knew Rick Santorum probably didn’t really live in the Penn Hills district in which he was registered to vote. Editor Chris Potter sounded off on the Santorum residency fracas after the ultra-conservative senator claimed that his neighbors — who were challenging his residency in court — were “operatives” for Democratic opponent Bob Casey. “Intimidating and scaring my family — and they feel threatened, let me assure you — is thuggery,” Santorum said of the neighbors, whom Santorum alleged trespassed on his property. The neighbors denied that claim, however, as Potter wrote: “If [they] did trespass on his property they’ve spent more time there than he has.”

Sick Music (June 5, 2012)

Music Editor Aaron Jentzen takes a look at the difficulties full-time musicians have getting health insurance. According to a survey by the Future of Music Coalition, one in three musicians is uninsured — nearly twice the 17 percent national average. The story focuses on musician Erny Papay, a musician and music teacher who pays more than $1,400 a month in health-insurance premiums. Jentzen also talks to Papay’s son, Jeremy, a musician with the Ringling Brothers circus, who gets health-care through his job. “It’s funny,” Jeremy said. “But joining the circus was one of the most responsible decisions of my life.”

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