Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Oregon Doctors Are Mad As Hell!

Sometimes living in a relatively progressive state is a reason for pride, and this is one of those times.

In a way, Dr. Eugene Uphoff, a 67-year-old Portland family physician, has come full circle.

MadAsHellDoctors He rode a Freedom Riders bus in 1961 into the South during the civil rights movement and spent six weeks behind bars in Mississippi for civil disobedience. On Tuesday, he climbed into a motor home with five other doctors rallying a noon crowd at Portland's Pioneer Courthouse Square and set out on a cross-country campaign for what he considers a civil rights issue: health care.

Borrowing a familiar line from the 1976 movie "Network," the doctors have made their rallying cry: "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore."

They're taking that message to 27 cities from Seattle, where they stopped Tuesday, to Washington, D.C. They aim to pick up a caravan of support as they cruise east, and hope to roll up to the White House on Sept. 30 with thousands of backers. The doctors, who collectively have 220 years of practical experience, are angry, but for different reasons than those who flocked to political town hall meetings in recent weeks to denounce President Obama and congressional leaders for going too far with health care reform.

"I'm angry about it because it doesn't go far enough," says Dr. Paul Hochfeld, 58, an emergency physician in Corvallis.

He and Uphoff are joined by Dr. Samuel Metz, 59, a Portland anesthesiologist; Dr. Michael Huntington, 66, a Corvallis radiation oncologist; Dr. Joseph Eusterman, 79, a primary physician retired in Wilsonville; and Dr. Bob Seward, 69, an internist retired in Forest Grove.

The doctors know they are moving late on a campaign that faces steep odds.

They hope to tap what they say is pent-up support for a single-payer health care reform strategy. A single-payer plan would create one organization, a nonprofit or, more likely, the federal government, to run one health insurance program for the nation, something like Medicare for everyone.

"We want to get single-payer people to come out of the closet," said Adam Klugman, a West Linn creative director who helped organize the tour.

About 200 people gathered Tuesday at Pioneer Courthouse Square downtown to send off a group of Oregon physicians who call themselves the "mad-as-hell doctors" because they favor a single-payer health system that is opposed by many in Congress; President Obama likes the idea but argues it is too radical…

…President Obama says he likes the single-payer idea but argues that it is too radical. So do congressional leaders. They are dismissing it, the doctors argue, because they are beholden to drug and insurance companies for campaign contributions.

"Our decisions are dictated to us not by government bureaucrats, but by insurance company bureaucrats," Uphoff said.

Though some polls show a slight majority of Americans supporting a single-payer model, they also show most want to keep the insurance they have. Most political leaders say a single-payer plan is politically impossible in part because it would shut down the nation's health insurance industry.

Still, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., agrees the single-payer option should have received far more discussion in Congress, said Josh Kardon, his chief of staff.

Uphoff said he's angry because insurance companies take advantage of his patients by scaring them, denying them coverage and paying their executives big salaries. He's angry at elected officials for closing the door on a single-payer plan, which he thinks offers the only affordable path to reform.

Twenty percent of the money spent on health care "is being wasted servicing the insurance industry," Hochfeld said. "They don't do anything for health. They suck money out of the system."… [emphasis added]

Inserted from <The Oregonian>

Now I don’t entertain any allusions that we will get single-payer anytime soon.  But I’m damn proud of these Oregon doctors with the courage and commitment to tell the truth to power, when power does not want to hear it.  As doctors, I’m sure they would make a little less under single-payer, but unlike the right-wing doctors who parrot insurance company lies, these doctors want what’s best for their patients and care enough to take action.  For their web site, Click Here.


Brother Tim said...

There are many doctors across the Nation that feel the same way. I wish they would all organize. Their voices carry much more weight than our small groanings. Yes, they will make a little less, but I feel they realize that they have been overpaid for years. They can see, that if the economy totally collapses, they will be making a helluva lot less. It's not just altruism that drives them.

As for the Rather Post:
"I hope he gets every penny."

I hope they find it was done with malice and treble the award.

TomCat said...

Brother, I believe that the intent of the Oregon Doctors is to pick up support as they barnstorm the country. On the rest, right on.

Annette said...

No, I don't think single payer would ever have passed at this time, and I think Pres. Obama and some of the more liberal members, including Sen. Kennedy knew that too. That's why it was taken off the table and used as a compromise right off the bat. However standing by the public option is a start.. and that's what they are trying to do.. if we can stand firm there.. that's a step in the right direction and in a few years we can expand and move to single payer for all.

Remember Medicare wasn't passed in it's present form either.. nor was Social Security... Baby Steps.. then strides, then we run...

gabrielle said...

Glad to hear about the Oregon doctors! Interesting. Last night, I attended a talk given by Bill McKibben (Deep Ecology), who has been sounding the alarm about global warming for 20 years. After writing 12 books, he realized that we had everything we needed: the science, the technology, public support. Everything, that is, except political will. So he and a couple of writer friends started a 5 day walk from Robert Frost’s homestead to Burlington, talking to people along the way. By the time they reached the capital, they were 1000 people strong. Since then, the movement has grown to include 120 nations. I wish the same momentum for these good doctors in their ethical quest to provide health care to everyone in the US.

According to a Reuters poll 60% of doctors in the US support single payer. Dr. Scheiner is one of these physicians. He was President Obama’s physician for 22 years, from 1987 until he entered the White House. Dr. Scheiner was recently disinvited from ABC’s healthcare forum, where he was planning to ask about single-payer healthcare.

A physician group that has been actively working on this issue is Physicians for National Health Care Plan. Their web site is full of information and inspiration: http://www.pnhp.org/

TomCat said...

I agree, Annette, but we need to keep pushing for it. I still support the public option as a step in that direction.

Thanks Gabrielle. That's excellent info, and ABC's behavior does not surprise me. Thanks for the link.