Letter to Representative Barreto

by Frank Erickson, MD

Thank you for seeing us yesterday in your office - I hope to be in touch with you regularly about the reform of health care in Oregon.

Regarding our unfinished discussion on health care as a human right and the need for single payer health care reform, here are a few thoughts on the foundation of our position, which is shared by thousands of supporters throughout the state:

Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Adopted by UN General Assembly Resolution 217A (III) of 10 December 1948)

Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.

We are a member of the United Nations and are obligated to follow resolutions as signatories, although we have been failing to uphold portions, such as this one on health care and the one about torture.

Article I of the U.S. Constitution mentions the general welfare; 

What does it mean? 

I like this summary:
"Promoting the general welfare" is just a fancy way of saying that we will do things like increase public safety, improve health, and progress the country. "Promoting the general welfare" = "Taking care of every citizen”

The Declaration of Independence includes “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” as "unalienable rights”:

In the area of health care delivery today in Oregon, I would like you to know these rights are being trampled upon.
What about Life in a ‘pay or die’ health care industry?
What about Liberty if you are a locked into a job due to fear of losing insurance?
What about Pursuit of Happiness if you constantly live in fear?  Fear of getting sick, fear of getting injured; fear of bankrupting your family.

We can argue about the wording and debate the sources and validity of the moral basis of why we believe health care financing needs to be changed, but in the end it all comes down to needing to remove the for-profit companies from the payment process and hardwire universal access into the system in order to stop the preventable loss of life, the disability and the bankruptcies.  The devil is in the details, for which we believe a study is needed to clarify how to do this (see HB2828).

Near the end of our meeting, you mentioned concern over "death panels” and mistrust of government administration of programs.  As a former regulatory board member - the Radiologist for the Oregon Board of Medical Imaging, I can say we conducted ourselves with serious attention to the needs of every case, providing professional oversight during my attendance from 2005-2011.  I have no doubt that a regulatory Board appointed by the Governor to oversee the Oregon Health Authority in the administration of  a single payer health care system (as provided for in SB631) can do a proper job of it - - there is always potential for mishandling, but there are also checks and balances to reduce potential abuse of power that we should all accept for the common good.

In summary, we have diagnosed a disease called "financial toxicity".  It has been and continues to cause heavy losses to our lives and economy as a people.  It is causing distrust and loss of public confidence in physicians and hospitals - the whole health care "industry".  It is manifested as a self-sustaining bureaucracy which burdens all who come into contact with it and adds middle-man cost only - - it adds no value to care.  It thrives by denying care rather than delivering it.  The cure is a single payer - everybody in, nobody out system - - all the other industrialized nations use some form of it to make their people healthier than ours at half the cost per capita - at least 36 countries have better outcomes than do we - - they outlive us now on average by three years.  We hold these truths self-evident.  We hope one day, you can, too.

Please support HB2828 to fund the study of health care financing which passed with bipartisan support last session - it just needs funding -- it comes to committee next Monday, 2/16/15.

Please consider SB631 coming up for hearings in March, 2015 - the Health Care for All Oregon Act. We need leadership, vision and courage for Oregon to show the nation the way forward.

Frank Erickson, MD.  Pendleton, OR