President's report: Oregonians Speak Out for Single Payer in Salem
-- Lee Mercer
Thanks to the over 200 Health Care for All-Oregon supporters from across Oregon who gathered at the Capitol in Salem Thursday April 20 to encourage their legislators to work towards universal publicly funded health care. Folks came in cars, vans and buses from as far away as Bandon, Ashland, Sisters and La Grande. Throughout the day the red-shirted activists were seen everywhere--from visits with their legislators, to a rally on the West Steps ,to overflowing multiple hearing rooms for the RAND report and SB 1046 single payer bill Senate Committee on Health Care hearings.
On the West Capitol steps at noon HCAO VP Ben Gerritz (Cascade AIDS Project/SEIU 503) MC’d a lively event led off by an original song, “Medicare for All,” performed by Peter Bergel and Marc Nassar of Dr. Atomic’s Medicine Show, followed by a sing-along of “This Plan is Our Plan” led by Mad as Hell Doctor Mike Huntington. Senator Michael Dembrow, lead sponsor of SB 1046, which would create a single payer system in Oregon, spoke on the bill and listed its now over 30 co-sponsors. Rep. Allissa Keny-Guyer praised the work of advocates for health care reform towards covering all Oregonians. Joining the HCAO advocates at the rally were folks organized by Common Cause, supporting an electoral reform bill, HB 2578. Rep. Dan Rayfield spoke briefly on this small donor matching bill. Other speakers at the rally were Linda Roman of the Oregon Latino Health Coalition; Dr Paul Gorman, OHSU; Betsy Zucker, FNP, Nurses for Single Payer and Portland Jobs with Justice; and Jason Freilinger, small business owner and Silverton City Council member.
The crowd attending the Senate Committee on Health Care hearing on HCAO’s bill, SB 1046, and the results of the RAND study on financing universal health care in Oregon overflowed the first hearing room into Hearing Room C, E, into hastily arranged lobby seating, and other monitors around the Capitol. If the hundreds of red-shirted advocates were not enough to make the issue visible, the Capitol was filled with AV images of the hearing on universal health care.
The gist of the RAND testimony was that, of the four financing systems studied (public option, an essential benefits model, the ACA as it is and single payer), the single payer system, for about what we pay for health care now, would provide comprehensive care for everyone living in Oregon.
Then Senator Dembrow led off a series of speakers testifying for why single payer would work best for Oregon, including Mary Lou Hennrich, HCAO board member and former CEO of Care Oregon; Chunhuei Chi, OSU professor who helped craft the Taiwan single payer plan; Dr Paul Gorman, OHSU; Tracy McEwen, who suffered a stroke for lack of preventative health care; nurse Lisa Mayamoto; Alberto Moreno, executive director of the Oregon Latino Health Coalition; and Albany manufacturer Ron Loe. Charlie Swanson, HCAO Legislative Chair, also spoke on the efficiencies of single payer. All made arguments for the moral imperative and/or the economic benefits of a single payer system.
HCAO Advocates did legislative visits with over 60 (two/thirds of) Oregon legislators, asking them to support the concept embodied in SB 1046 by creating a work group of stake-holders to act on the results of the RAND study to design a universal health care system guaranteeing comprehensive and more affordable coverage for everyone living in Oregon.
-- Lee Mercer, President, Mobilization Chair, Health Care for All Oregon
Executive Team Member, Main Street Alliance of Oregon