Mad as hell across the country

September 1, 2009

Andrea Hektor reports on the plans of Oregon doctors and single-payer advocates to take their cause on the road.

A SMALL group of Oregon-based doctors and their supporters is getting ready for a cross-country tour to demand health care reform that will actually work to end the crisis--a government-run single-payer system that would cover everyone and cut out the private insurance industry.

The doctors' "Care-A-Van" will start out September 8 on a journey from Portland, Ore., to Washington, D.C.

The trip will include town hall meetings on health care along the way. But these forums won't be like the ones sponsored by Washington politicians, where right-wingers denounced all reform and Democratic legislators attempted to defend their proposals. Even before those town halls occurred, the Democrats conceded on a series of crucial questions, leaving their legislation "toothless" and giving the insurance industry everything it could have hoped for.

In contrast, the town halls organized for the six physicians, who call themselves the "Mad As Hell Doctors," will seek to educate people about single-payer and get people involved in the movement fighting for a rational health care system.

Rallying for single-payer health care
Rallying for single-payer health care

As Dr. Paul Hochfield, the lead Mad As Hell Doctor and producer of the documentary Health, Money, and Fear, said in a statement, "We're mad as hell because our health care system is run by people who profit from illness. The rest of the civilized world has test-driven single-payer, and it works. But elected officials in America won't even allow a discussion."

With millions in the U.S. uninsured and millions more with coverage that would likely stick them with enough bills to land them in bankruptcy court were they ever to have a serious medical emergency, the vast majority of the U.S. public supports some type of global government-run system for all citizens.

Yet the term "universal health care" has been expropriated by Democrats to mean "mandated coverage"--something like the health care scheme imposed in Massachusetts in 2004 that requires all residents to purchase some form of coverage, likely from a private company, or face tax penalties.

So while many people see the need for reform, the debate about health care among elected officials and in the corporate-controlled--and insurance-industry friendly--mainstream media has skewed people's idea of what single-payer, "everybody in, nobody out" health care coverage.

What you can do

For more information about the Mad as Hell Doctors and their Care-A-Van, as well as tour stop locations and contact information if you want to help with publicity, visit the Mad As Hell Doctors Web site.

Getting real information about single-payer out there is half the reason for the Mad As Hell Care-A-Van, according to Dr. Mike Huntington, a radiologist from Corvallis, Ore., who will be on the trip. As Huntington put it:

People need to understand what single-payer is--and isn't. It isn't socialism, any more than police and fire are socialism. And it doesn't require any more money.

Simply put, single-payer is a way to take the current premium payments that go to a thousand different private insurance companies, and redirect them into a single, public fund that insures everyone. That's all it is. But when we do this, lots of wonderful things happen, not the least of which is to save Americans $500 billion a year, starting day one. That's billion--with a "b." America needs this information. That's why we're taking the tour.

The other motive behind the tour is to get people involved in activism. "We're doing this because we care," said Dr. Gene Uphoff, a retired family physician from Portland. "The time to demand single-payer in America is now. We may not get another opportunity for real change like this in our lifetime. Washington needs to hear all of us right now."

Every move the Mad as Hell Doctors make will be videotaped, and then edited and uploaded to the Internet that same day. The uploaded segments will be promoted on social networking web sites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, MySpace and elsewhere--giving Mad As Hell Doctors Tour followers the opportunity to follow their stories in real time.

The tour will end on September 30 in Washington, D.C. with a plan for thousands of cars to pull up for a protest in front of the White House, where the Mad As Hell Doctors hope to meet with President Barack Obama to discuss real health care reform.

"This is not a campaign," the Mad As Hell Doctors said in a press release. "In campaigns, there are spectators. This is a movement. Everybody plays."

These doctors are right--right to be mad, right that we need a real debate about health care, and right that it's going to take a movement to win single-payer.

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