Eugene demonstrators urge universal single-payer health care system
by Ruth Duemler and Lou Sinniger
Will every Oregonian have affordable health care? Great turnout from Eugene and all around the state to rally for Health Care for All! Three buses plus some car pooling from Eugene joined dozens from as far as way as Coos Bay, Prineville and Ashland, and even LaGrande brought 22 health care advocates.
Changes are underway for state and federal health care, but hundreds of Oregonians gathered at a rally Monday said they want lawmakers to move further toward establishing a universal single-payer system. Representative Mike Dembrow greeted the crowd and assured them that he was busy enlisting co-sponsors for his Affordable health Care for All Oregon Act that will be introduced this session. Good news! An estimated 1,000 people held up Health Care for All signs, chanted and even sang at the Capitol’s steps to show their support for such legislation.
Instead of paying private health insurance premiums, co-payments and other extra medical expenses, residents would fund the universal health care plan through a tax based on their ability to pay, according to Health Care for ALL-Oregon, the coalition of over 60 labor, education and health care organizations that hosted the rally. Studies indicate that it would save Oregonians billions of dollars.
“We feel that every Oregonian deserves health care and there are minimal steps that are being taken,” said Mike Huntington M.D., president of the Health Care for ALL-Oregon Education Fund..
Even with the expansion of health care coverage under the Obama administration, Huntington pointed to studies that showed an estimated 28 million people would still be uninsured in our country when the Affordable Care Act is fully implemented.
Similar legislation has been proposed in previous years, but never moved beyond committee. Opponents, which include the Cascade Policy Institute, say a single-payer system would eliminate competition among insurance companies that help drive health care costs down. Who believes this?
“Anybody who takes a serious look at it realizes there’s a lot of unintended consequences,” said Steve Buckstein, a senior policy analyst and founder of the Cascade Policy Institute, a Libertarian think tank. “It’s not a free lunch.”
Even with Democrats in majority control, Buckstein noted that a single-payer system could unravel some of the health care changes lawmakers have supported — such as the development of a central marketplace called an exchange where individuals and businesses comparison-shop for health insurance. Health Care for All advocates respond that elininating the 30% cost of present insurance administration, including million-dollar salaries to those on top would pay enough to provide health care for everyone. Other countries have health care costs less than half of ours; everyone is served, lives longer and has better health in every category.
Many of the rally’s participants came dressed in red — some as Supreme Court justices with umbrellas — while waving signs that read “We want health care not wealth care” and “Everybody In. Nobody Out.” It was an exciting event and everyone said they wanted to return! SOON!