Health Care for ALL Oregon Coalition Meeting - November 14, 2015

It was an exciting meeting in Corvallis, filled with information about Health Care for ALL Oregon’s plans to achieve universal health care for all Oregonians this decade.  Attendees came from all over Oregon to hear reports from the leadership, give feedback,  share information, participate in workshops and plan activities.    

A dedicated crowd of activists filled the hall of Good Samaritan Episcopal Church in Corvallis.

A dedicated crowd of activists filled the hall of Good Samaritan Episcopal Church in Corvallis.

Benjamin Gerritz, vice president of HCAO at the podium.

Benjamin Gerritz, vice president of HCAO at the podium.

You can help MVHCA as we work for publicly funded universal health care like the rest of the developed world by donatinghosting a house party, signing up for the newsletter, and attending our monthly meetings. You can also Like us on Facebook, and Follow us on Twitter. Thank you.

Where Is The Mercy?

As published in the Health Care for ALL Oregon website:

Mercy Killers brings the human story behind cancer statistics
to Oregon

Cancer has a major impact on society in the United States and across the world. Cancer statistics describe what happens in large groups of people and provide a picture in time of the burden of cancer on society. According to the National Cancer Institute, an estimated 40% of American men and women will be diagnosed with cancer at some point during their lifetime: one of three women and one of two men. Additionally, prominent oncologists are calling for support of a grass-roots movement to stem the rapid increases of prices of cancer drugs. More than 60% of bankruptcies in the US are caused by such out-of-control medical expense.

Award-winning playwright/actor Michael Milligan portrays the human face of these statistics, dramatizing the crushing psychological and financial impact of such a diagnosis on ordinary people with his one-man play, Mercy Killers. At the invitation of Health Care for All-Oregon and sponsored by Physicians for a National Health Program, Milligan is bringing the play on an Oregon tour in September. His performances will be followed by “talk-back” audience participation with Milligan and local medical personnel and advocates. Proceeds, after expenses, will benefit HCAO and its regional groups

Milligan has performed Mercy Killers hundreds of times in churches, homes and theaters across the land. The play, inspired by his personal experience, chronicles the reality, not just the statistics, of the corporate culture that runs our market-based health care system; of the struggle with insurance companies, drug companies and hospitals that profit from medical distress and then discard terminally ill people when they no longer can pay.

Joe is an all-American apple pie, Rush Limbaugh-loving, blue-collar patriot with conservative values of self-reliance and personal responsibility. His love of country, life and liberty are thrown into question when his wife becomes sick. Suddenly, the American Dream is not what it seems. Joe is being interrogated by an unseen police investigator over the death of his terminally ill wife. His tragic tale of love and anger illuminates the dark side of the American medical system

Milligan was a member of a working group of Occupy Wall Street called Health Care for the 99 Percent and works with the advocacy group Health Care Now. He is committed to theater that tells the story of ordinary people, that allows audiences to see themselves and their experiences reflected on stage. Mercy Killers is a surprisingly tender love story, a cry from the heart, not a prescription. With this play, Milligan delivers a message that must be honored, regardless of ideology.

Bring your friends and buy your tickets now. This is a message you won't want to miss.

Mercy Killers performances are scheduled for:

Portland: Thursday September 17, 8 p.m. at The Alberta Rose Theater, 3000 NE Alberta street. Buy your tickets NOW.  Sponsored by the Portland Health Action Group.
Contact Tom Sincic for more information.

Newport:  Friday September 18, 7 p.m. at the Newport Performing Arts Center,777 W Olive St. Sponsored by HCAO Newport. Ticket price is $15 at the door, with advance sales available HERE. Contact Jerry Robbins for more information.

Albany/Corvallis:  Saturday September 19, 7 p.m. at the Linn-Benton Community College Russell Tripp auditorium, 6500 Pacific Blvd. SW in Albany. Sponsored by Mid-Valley Health Care Advocates. Tickets may be purchased at Grass Roots Bookstore on Second Street in downtown Corvallis and will also be sold at the door. In addition, people can call Tessa Green at 541-961-8436 to have tickets mailed. Tickets will be $10 regular, $7 for seniors and students.

Springfield:  Sunday September 20, 2 p.m. in the Richard E. Wildish Community Theatre, 630 Main St. Buy your tickets NOW. Sponsored by HCAO Eugene/Springfield.
Contact Vicki Anderson for more information.

Florence:  Thursday September 24, 7 p.m. at the City Light Cinemas, 1930 HWY 101 in Florence. Sponsored by HCAO Florence. Advance tickets will be sold at City Lights Cinemas, 2006 Hwy 101, every day between noon and midnight until Sept. 24. They are also available online HERE. Get tickets early to avoid delays the night of the show.
Contact Stuart Henderson for more information.
Eugene:  Friday September 25, 7:30 p.m. in The very Little Theatre, 2350 Halyard St. in Eugene. Buy your tickets NOW  Sponsored by HCAO Eugene/Springfield.
Contact Lou Sinniger for more information.

You can help MVHCA as we work for publicly funded universal health care like the rest of the developed world by donatinghosting a house party, signing up for the newsletter, and attending our monthly meetings. You can also Like us on Facebook, and Follow us on Twitter. Thank you.

MVHCA Annual Picnic Celebration - PHOTOS!

You can help MVHCA as we work for publicly funded universal health care like the rest of the developed world by donatinghosting a house party, signing up for the newsletter, and attending our monthly meetings. You can also Like us on Facebook, and Follow us on Twitter. Thank you.

What's It Really Like To Live In A Country With Universal Healthcare?

From tickld

 

15 Adults were asked: "People who live in a country with universal health care, what is it really like?"

1. ‘American here. Been living in the UK for 4 years. First doctors visit, I got laughs from staff when I asked "is this it? do I just leave now?” and felt guilty for leaving the office without any kind of co-pay to worry about or insurance card to flash.’  Brickmana

2. 'New Zealand here. You break your arm. You go to hospital. They operate and everything is taken care of. You go home.' Yhusama

3. ‘My little son broke his arm yesterday, we walked into casualty in a UK hospital, the receptionist took the time to talk to him and crack a few jokes, the triage nurses were great and the folks who x rayed him all took the time to show him the pictures and explain what all the bones where. The plaster guys were friendly and gentle whilst making time to tell us how to look after the cast. Walked out without it costing us anything except parking that is not already covered in my taxes. This is the NHS, not perfect but pretty freaking awesome in my book’ Aliktren

4. ‘UK here. My wife gave birth this year, via C-section. 3-night stay in hospital, private room, meals, painkillers (we've got so much leftover codeine I've thought about selling it to make a couple of mortgage overpayments), and oh yeah major surgery and post-op care. The biggest expense of the whole weekend was the sandwich I bought for lunch while visiting each day.’ Dalffalolsz

5. ‘I'm an 18 year old Australian that had heart surgery earlier this year. Without universal health care I would be either dead or thousands of dollars in debt in the next few years. I will never live in a country without it.’ mofftt

6. ‘Poland here. Endless waiting in lines.’ ffocuss

7. ‘In New Zealand, if I get hurt or sick I can show up to the ER and not worry about commas in my bill.’ dmanww

8. ‘UK here. Relative had several years of dialysis, then a kidney transplant, treatment for further complications involving a further three or four further surgical procedures. They have then also been taking a whole cocktail of meds since all this started, about ten years ago. All completely free.’ Gmona

9. ‘Japan here. I 'm single without kids, and I pay 4% of my gross income for National Health Insurance, and my employer kicks in a matching amount. Care is quite cheap. My last MRI was $60.’  Nessie

10. ‘In the UK sexual health clinics and associated medicines to treat STI's are completely free, and there are lots of clinics up and down the country that operate independently of your local GP. I have read stories of teens (and adults) in America not treating STI's because they can't afford the treatment and are too scared to go to their parents.’ diggdal

11. ‘France here: you won’t be bankrupt because you had cancer or something and lost your job. Most medical expenses are fully reimbursed by the Social Security. We pay for it: taxes are heavier than in the US, but all in all it works quite well.’ graendallstud

12. ‘Swede here, since I’ve grown up with it it's not really a big deal for me. For example; 10 years ago, when I was 8, my brother chopped my index finger off. I went to the hospital, got everything taken care of, and went home.’ Gnadalf

13. ‘Canadian here. When we get sick or hurt. the cost of healthcare is the last thing on our minds. I imagine it would be my first concern if I lived in the States.’  prestidigit8or

14. ‘American living in Denmark here. I don't have to worry about cost. If I need to go to the doctor, I can without having to budget for it. My medicine is cheaper as is my healthcare overall. I find it comforting that everyone pays a little so that everyone - even tourists who get hurt during vacation, can get taken care of.’ Ipsey

15. ‘My Mum was diagnosed with breast cancer, luckily it's not too serious but she opted for chemo just to be safe. She didn't pay a cent for ANYTHING. Also, she just had her last round of chemo today, and the cancer society had a function for her, as well as many others. They got given a shitload of free makeup and products simply to make them feel beautiful again. Not even accommodation for the 5 weeks she had to stay away from home. This is New Zealand.’ jamtisk

You can help MVHCA as we work for publicly funded universal health care like the rest of the developed world by donatinghosting a house party, signing up for the newsletter, and attending our monthly meetings. You can also Like us on Facebook, and Follow us on Twitter. Thank you.

PNHP - What Single Payer Advocates Can Learn From Australia

Australian Health Care — The Challenge of Reform in a Fragmented System

By Jane Hall, Ph.D.
The New England Journal of Medicine, August 6, 2015

The Australian health care system appears remarkably successful in delivering good health outcomes with reasonable cost control. Australians enjoy one of the longest life expectancies and a long healthy life expectancy, while costs as a proportion of the gross domestic product remain around the median among countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Universal, tax-financed comprehensive health insurance, Australian Medicare, has been largely stable for three decades. Yet this performance has been achieved through, or despite, the interplay of public and private financing, public and private service provision, and a division of responsibilities between the federal and state governments. The main political parties clash over the role of government and whether national health insurance in its current form should continue.

Australian Medicare was established in 1984, after a period of tumultuous change. Australia has moved through numerous approaches to health care financing: private insurance with public subsidies (pre-1974), publicly financed national universal health insurance (Medibank, 1974–1976), predominantly private insurance with public subsidies (1976–1984), publicly financed national universal health insurance (Medicare, 1984–1996), publicly financed national universal health insurance with publicly subsidized private health insurance (1996–2013), and publicly financed national universal health insurance with means testing for private insurance subsidies (2013 to present). The rationale for government subsidies for private insurers alongside a public universal insurance scheme has never seemed clear; perhaps it is best seen as the compromise between the “strife of interests masquerading as a conflict of principles” that, according to health planner Sidney Sax, characterizes the Australian system. full text here

Comment:

By Don McCanne, MD

Probably the greatest problem with government financed and government administered health care systems is that, whenever conservatives gain control of the government, they attempt to privatize the systems, believing that markets work better than the government. Currently we are seeing such efforts in England, Canada and Australia.

As today’s message demonstrates, Australia serves as a prime example of how the health care systems suffer under continuing shifts in political ideology, with the most damage being done under conservative rule. As their government leadership changes periodically, “Australia has moved through numerous approaches to health care financing.” 

Jane Hall, the author of the NEJM article above, writes, “The rationale for government subsidies for private insurers alongside a public universal insurance scheme has never seemed clear; perhaps it is best seen as the compromise between the ‘strife of interests masquerading as a conflict of principles’ that, according to health planner Sidney Sax, characterizes the Australian system.”

Thus Australia has ended up with a highly fragmented system, though shifting political winds make it likely that they have not seen the last change. (More information is available in the white paper produced by the current conservative Australian government - link above.)

One interesting observation in the NEJM article (which is available for free at the link above) is the contrast between the public and private sectors in delivering health care. An example is that “42% of private deliveries (unadjusted for risk factors) are caesareans, versus 29% of public deliveries.” Their private sector seems to have much in common with our medical-industrial complex.

Many single payer supporters in the United States continue to advocate for a “public option” - a government-run insurance that competes with the private plans - as an incremental step towards a universal single payer system. Australia’s Medibank began as such a program in 1975. The Wikipedia chronicle (above) of the history of Medibank reveals that it has transformed into the largest, private, shareholder owned insurance company in their nation. Although our efforts at establishing a public option never got off the ground, before the effort was abandoned, the concept had already evolved away from an expansion of Medicare into simply another player in the private insurance market, government in name only.

Our health care politics have much in common with Australia, and we both have fragmented health systems as a result. Our public Medicare program has already been partially privatized by using overpayments of taxpayer dollars to lure Medicare beneficiaries into the private Medicare Advantage plans. The conservatives are not through in that they want to shift the entire program into the private sector by use of “premium support” vouchers. Of course, the expansion of private insurance plans also perpetuates fragmentation, though currently efforts are being made to convert the insurers into private oligopolies - perhaps the worst model of health care reform that we could have.

So who ultimately controls the ideological complexion of the government? The voters, of course. That is why it is crucial that we continue to educate the public on single payer - an improved Medicare for all - contrasting it with the more dysfunctional models, with our present system being a prime example of dysfunction. The people can have a much better health care system, but they are going to have to understand what that is so that they will demand it of our politicians.

You can help MVHCA as we work for publicly funded universal health care like the rest of the developed world by donatinghosting a house party, signing up for the newsletter, and attending our monthly meetings. You can also Like us on Facebook, and Follow us on Twitter. Thank you.

Healthcare Financing Study Bill Clears Difficult Hurdle with $300,000

In the words of Betty Johnson of MVHCA and HCAO:

"HB 2828 was passed by the full Ways and Means Committee. It had previously passed the Health and Human Services sub-committee of Ways & Means. Now the bill will be part of the total state budget which will be acted upon by the Senate and the House. Good news!"

Here are the details from the Lund Report:

A study first conceived by Sen. Michael Dembrow in 2013 that passed without funding, has repassed with $300,000 in state money after private donations came up short. Support for the study has a bipartisan history, but as a thorough and objective study comes closer to a reality, the political pressure mounts against it. The state money, however, is enough for the study to move forward.

Chris Gray

The Oregon universal healthcare financing study bill cleared the top budget committee after a contentious hearing Monday, with $300,000 attached to design the best way of financing a universal healthcare system in Oregon.

House Bill 2828 has been a top priority of Sen. Michael Dembrow, D-Portland, as well as single-payer activists, who believe it will lead to their preferred method of healthcare financing system through a government-managed health insurance plan. But the bill specifically asks for an objective study weighing four options, pointedly not recommending any option such as single payer.

The hearing was subject to an array of misinformation about the bill, perhaps the result of behind-the-scenes pressure from the hospital and insurance industry lobbies, which could stand to lose millions if Oregon adopted single-payer. Now, a substantial amount of money spent by government and Oregon businesses intended for patient care is being diverted to industry profits and lucrative salaries for hospital management even at non-profit hospitals.

In particular, Sen. Betsy Johnson, D-Scappoose, who had previously supported an unfunded study in 2013, joined all but one of the Republicans in opposing HB 2828 in the Ways & Means Committee, telling her colleagues she was worried that private money could bias the outcome, since the study was projected to cost twice as much as the state allocation -- $600,000 -- and was relying on private sources for the reminder.

“What I’m worried about is a tsunami of private contributions that could come flooding in to influence the outcome,” Johnson posited.

“I would be a yes if I thought the study would be objective, but I don’t see there’s any way,” said Sen. Fred Girod, R-Stayton, a dentist. “I think right now we’re a bunch of lemurs heading off the cliff, and you’re going to have a bunch of lemurs doing the study.”

In fact, HB 2828 came about because that unfunded 2013 study only attracted about $50,000 in pledges and donations, too little to do a study. As Dembrow explained later to The Lund Report, the $300,000 in state money will be enough for the Oregon Health Authority to move forward with the study. And if any additional private donations were to influence the outcome, it would defeat the purpose of the study and discredit the outcome, which is informational and non-binding.

“I think we will be prepared to go forward with the study with the $300,000, and money we’ve already raised. The more we put into the study, the more the researchers will be able to answer,” Dembrow said. “The results of the study won’t do any good if they’re perceived to be tainted. We’re hoping it will put forward credible, Oregon-focused information.”

“That’s enough to do a good study,” agreed Dr. Sam Metz, a Portland anesthesiologist who has had the difficult task of soliciting private funds since 2013. “Most of the Legislature who are aware of the study know that it’s a value.”

Dembrow said since a lot of scholarship has already been completed on healthcare financing in the United States, the researchers could piggyback on that work, although with more money, they could do a more thorough analysis. The study could possibly be conducted by healthcare researchers at Oregon State University,by another university or by health financing experts at a private firm such as Wakely Consulting, but any contract would be awarded through an open bidding process.

The concept for a study has a much more bipartisan history than what appeared at Monday’s hearing, when just one Republican, Sen. Jackie Winters of Salem, supported the measure. In 2013, Johnson as well as two Republicans who are now on the Ways & Means Committee supported an unfunded predecessor health financing study, Sen. Bill Hansell of Pendleton and Rep. Gene Whisnant of Sunriver.

On the floor, Republicans such as Sen. Jeff Kruse of Roseburg and Rep. Andy Olson of Albany had supported House Bill 3460, paying deference to part of the study that will look at a bare-bones universal health coverage plan that could potentially be funded by a sales tax -- a longtime goal of former Sen. Frank Morse, a progressive Republican from Albany. It also had the support of 2014 GOP gubernatorial candidate Rep. Dennis Richardson of Central Point.


You can help MVHCA as we work for publicly funded universal health care like the rest of the developed world by donatinghosting a house party, signing up for the newsletter, and attending our monthly meetings. You can also Like us on Facebook, and Follow us on Twitter. Thank you.


Video of SB 631 Hearing & Media

Starts around 8 minutes in.

The Lund Report had a very thorough article about the hearing.
The Portland Business Journal gave a small business perspective.
The Statesman Journal discussed the long term need for single payer.

Thank you to all who attended to show your support.

You can help MVHCA as we work for single payer health care by donatinghosting a house party, signing up for the newsletter, and attending our monthly meetings. You can also Like us on Facebook, and Follow us on Twitter. Thank you.

Price Gouging by Drug Manufacturers

Don McCanne of PNHP comments here on the article in the Boston Globe about why the cost of naloxone, which is used to reverse heroin overdoses, has skyrocketed since former governor Deval Patrick declared a public health emergency a year ago.

Comment by Don McCanne

Drug manufacturers recently have been engaged in outrageous pricing
practices for essential drugs that they produce - the hepatitis C drugs
being an egregious example.

Narcan - a crucial life saving drug that reverses narcotic overdoses - now
has much wider distribution since it has become available to first
responders. The manufacturer - Amphastar Pharmaceuticals - in what has to
be more than a mere coincidence, chose this time to sharply increase the
price of this drug.

When the market is dysfunctional, it is the responsibility of government to
intervene. The United States has shirked its responsibility. We need to
revise our approach.

A single payer national health program functions as a monopsony - a single
purchaser of products and services. In private markets, monopsonistic
pricing can be as evil as monopolistic pricing like the example of Narcan.
The difference with a government monopsony is that it gets pricing right -
an adequate price to be sure that products and services remain available,
yet at a price that does not gouge the taxpayers who fund the system.