Save Our Health Care Portland Rally

Save Our Health Care Portland Rally

Report by Chris Lowe:

A large rally in Portland on January 15 was headlined by Senators Wyden and Merkley and Representatives Blumenauer, Bonamici and Schrader, that filled a big gymnasium and overflowed outside into sub-freezing weather. The Oregonian and KPTV, the local Fox affiliate, both reported that “thousands” took part, even though the roads in Portland were treacherous with ice and compacted snow.

In an important development for HCAO, Representative Earl Blumenauer called for “looking again at single payer” in his speech.

            Senator Jeff Merkley

            Senator Jeff Merkley

The five members of Congress were joined on the platform by a number of state legislators, county commissioners, city councilors, and persons representing constituencies that would be harmed by repealing the ACA or block granting Medicaid and privatizing Medicare. Two individuals spoke with stories about how the ACA in one instance allowed them to start a business that they would have to close if it were repealed, and in another instance saved the lives of her son and herself from Hepatitis C.

All the senators and representatives presented a strong fight-back approach to defending the ACA, Medicaid, and Medicare. All spoke about defending Planned Parenthood funding for women’s health care. Ron Wyden linked the ‘repeal Obamacare” effort to proposed tax cuts for the very wealthy, which would be “paid for” by cutting health care spending. Wyden also demanded a“hands-off Medicare, hands-off Medicaid, hands-off the ACA" approach, including no voucherization of Medicare and no block granting of Medicaid.

Senator Wyden's strong stance is important because in 2011 Wyden co-wrote a white paper on Medicare with Paul Ryan, who as Speaker of the House is now leading the Republican effort for health care cuts. That white paper looked toward privatizing Medicare and converting it from defined benefit to defined (government) contribution in exchanges. At the rally, Wyden put down strong public markers against such changes that would be hard to back away from.

Earl Blumenauer went further. He said that while we must defend against the proposed cuts, that we should be putting forward other ideas to improve the health care system and the ACA framework. He mentioned a couple of smaller possibilities, and then said “And we should be looking at single payer again.”

That pro-single payer line got a huge protracted roaring cheer from the crowd. Blumenauer’s position opens up new opportunities for HCAO.

There was a large visible pro-single payer presence in the crowd and their signs, including supporters of HCAO, Nurses for Single Payer, local Bernie Sanders supporter groups, Democratic Socialists of America, and other single payer advocates.

See Cameron Whitten's video recording of the rally in Portland. Rep. Blumenauer's support for Single Payer and the crowd's response is at about 27 minutes.

Additional Comments on the PDX Rally:
--from Jana Gregory

When i arrived, the line to enter the gym was three blocks long. I rounded the first corner to find that the gym was full! They got a huge loudspeaker just outside the gym door so hundreds of us stood in the snow listening to the speeches. I left with my friends feeling much more hopeful and energized.

--from Kathy Showalter

                    Lisa Stiller and Yuriko Lee at the Rally

                    Lisa Stiller and Yuriko Lee at the Rally

I was standing in the frozen-toe crowd outside. I saw Betsy Zucker, but no one else I know from HCAO. Yet there were single-payer signs, shouts of "single-payer now," and a spontaneous single-payer chant at one point. It was quite heartening

--from Jim Robison

I did see a fair number of HCAO folks at the rally. (By the way, it was Joe Rowe who instigated the "Single-Payer Now" chants.) I was told by a Merkley staffer on Monday that they estimate 2,000 people were there.

--from Karen Baker

I want to recognize Amanda Coulter for standing outside in the cold for several hours before and during the rally to gather statements of support; I think she was juggling three clipboards by herself. Amanda was talking to everyone on the way in and wasn't actively gathering names inside the rally, yet I had people come up to me because of my Healthcare Is A Human Right t-shirt and ask to sign their support and even volunteer.