District 46 House Party

                                                                                              Carl Wolfson, MC

                                                                                              Carl Wolfson, MC

District 46 House Party

Report by Beth Kerwin 

Twenty-eight people gathered at Rep. Allisa Keny-Guyer’s home in Southeast Portland on September 4, 2015, to enjoy stories, discuss strategy, and learn how to become involved with Health Care for All-Oregon. 

Carl Wolfson was the Master of Ceremonies and made us laugh all night with his great political satire. Wolfson is the host of “Carl in the Morning” on X-Ray Radio, 97.1 or 107.1 FM (XRAY took the place of KPOJ), and he fights for progressive causes. Wolfson has had many of our HCAO colleagues on the air, and he plans to continue to do so in the future.

Antony Valoppi was our first speaker. Valoppi once owned a restaurant in Portland and published a magazine about Oregon vino. He was at the top of his game. Suddenly diagnosed with hepatitis C, he found himself scared and worried. He began to re-think his lifestyle. Selling his restaurant, he started a bucket list, took a trip to Alaska to view the Aurora Borealis, and weighed his options. 

Only able to access the Oregon Health Plan (OHP) for a short time, Valoppi was eventually denied coverage for necessary treatment. Valoppi appealed the decision. Denied again, he called the drug manufacturer. Valoppi somehow finagleda two-way call with his insurance provider and the manufacturer. Surprisingly, the manufacturer agreed to pay Valoppi’s medication costs in full. Today Valoppi is three months post-testing and cured. What would have happened if Valoppi hadn’t been pro-active? We all know that if HCAO was in place, Valoppi would have had no worries. 

Troyce Crucchiola was our next speaker. He graciously acknowledged Valoppi’s story. Crucchiola came from a family who had good insurance, and luckily so, because at 10 years old Cruchiola was diagnosed with kidney disease. His kidneys failed when he was 21. In 1974 Congress passed the Social Security Amendment ensuring that all Americans suffering with chronic kidney failure receive 80% coverage. 

Crucchiola described the beginning of his treatment:  he was at the top of the “health pyramid”--his team of technicians, nurses, doctors, all supporting him. Currently, he said, the pyramid has shifted as the team is less engaged, and he described himself as at the bottom of the pyramid. 

Crucchiola acknowledged, “We all bleed the same.” How can one person be entitled to health care and the other not? Crucchiola said they “dialyze people more often, and patients receive many more amenities (while receiving dialysis) in most other countries.” Fair? A justification: they have Universal Health Care. 

Senator Michael Dembrow has been working on the health care issue since he started in the Oregon Legislature. He called his experience challenging, time-consuming, but motivating.  Dembrow said the legislators can develop the policies. It will ultimately be up to the voters to decide through a ballot measure. 

Demborw had his own story of being buried in health care bills while he was covered under an insurance policy. Dembrow also reminded us that Obama Care does not cover everyone, and he cited teachers he works with at Portland Community College who can’t afford insurance. Dembrow lived in France for three years and called the coverage “great.”

Peter Mahr, MD, the next speaker, stated that France has one of he best health care coverage systems in the world. Mahr discussed a proposal for health care reform, citing five principles we need in order to create a fair health care system: 1) affordability 2) sustainable for society 3) continuity 4) universal 5) safe, quality, and efficient. Obama Care has none of these. 

Mahr had a patient with breast cancer who couldn’t afford treatment for three to six months, a gap in care. When she started treatment, it was too late, the cancer had spread. Mahr heard later that she had died. Fair?

A universal system, life-long, funded by a tax on people and employers, that benefits everyone, with full access to doctors and hospitals, is the answer. By taking the profit out of health care, it becomes affordable.  

Diana Scholl was our final speaker. Scholl’s history of involvement in justice issues, such as ERA, abortion rights, the anti-war movement, combined with her studies in theology and public health, made activism on behalf of health care reform a natural fit. Scholl spent 20 years in Vermont as a hospital chaplain. During that time, she worked closely with Bernie Sanders and was involved in the publicly funded health care movement. 

Since moving to Oregon, Scholl said two things have struck her: how many Oregonians statewide are involved in HCAO. In Vermont (a much smaller state) residents were far less involved. Another huge benefit for HCAO is the professional people involved in the HCAO movement.

Scholl introduced the HCAO website, discussed the calendar of events, articles, and ways to become involved. She reminded us that what it takes is a grassroots effort. She ended by stating that Senator Ted Kennedy’s parting advice to his colleagues was to pass a universal health care bill. It is the moral, ethical, and most important issue of our time.  

                                                     Michael Dembrow, Allisa Keny-Guyer, Mary Post, and Beth Kerwin.    

                                                     Michael Dembrow, Allisa Keny-Guyer, Mary Post, and Beth Kerwin.