They're mad as hell and they came from Oregon
WASHINGTON DC, October 3, 2009 – Oregon’s homegrown Mad As Hell Doctors were met by Rep. Dennis Kucinich in Washington DC on the final days of their cross-country media blitz.
The group of doctors drew a modest crowd in front of the White House on Wednesday (Sept 30) capping a month long quest to put single payer back in the national debate. But by far the most exciting moment came when Kucinich arrived. He took the stage like it was the Democratic National Convention.
“If there be a cause that is worthy of the rest of our lives it is to make sure that each and every American is able to participate in a universal, single payer, not for profit healthcare system where everyone is covered, where no one is turned away, where no one is afraid to be sick,” Kucinich said.
The Democrat from Ohio and national leader in the single payer movement recently won approval for an amendment in HR 3200 giving states the option of creating a single payer plan. "It's got to start in one state," Kucinich said.
Tipping their hat to the idea, the Portland City Council passed a resolution last week urging Congress to pass a single payer bill sponsored by Kucinich and Rep. John Conyers, HR 676. But the bill has yet to be introduced in any committee.
What began in Oregon by a group of doctors frustrated that Congress wouldn’t consider a single payer healthcare bill has taken the country by storm. Two dozen cities, hundreds of interviews and close to one million Google hits later, Dr. Paul Hochfeld, an emergency room physician at Good Samaritan Hospital in Corvallis, said the experience has changed him.
“We’ve heard just some horrendous stories,” Hochfeld said. “There’s a really deep understanding in this country that we have a very broken and corrupt healthcare system. They may win this round but this is just the first round in a long battle. We’re just going to keep doing it over and over again.”
The rally last week was the last of dozens the group had staged, permitted and promoted throughout their trip that began in Portland on Sept. 8. They even hired a public relations firm and developed a theme song.
Hochfeld and fellow Corvallis physician Mike Huntington were joined by Portland physicians Eugene Uphoff, Samuel Metz, Joseph Eusterman and Robert Seward. Doctors and nurses in California, Washington, New York and elsewhere also joined them for portions of the trip.
The doctors, all retired or middle-aged, spanned political spectrums. Four veterans were joined by Dr. Marc Sapir from San Francisco, a war resistor in Vietnam who marched on Washington with Martin Luther King in the 1960s.
Congress may be no more likely now to consider a single payer healthcare bill than before the doctors hit the road in their iconic custom painted Winnebago, but the group certainly made their mark.
Bill Aiken, an emergency room nurse from Bellingham, said the experience has made him feel empowered. “It’s incredible. It’s exhilarating,” Aiken said. “This is so therapeutic for me. I’ve been furious and just enraged, and totally out of power, no control at all in this situation that is absolutely insane until this opportunity came around.”
Aiken said he’s sent hundreds of emails, written letters, made phone calls and donated money without any obvious response. “But this is something,” Aiken said of the campaign. “I’m doing something. People are listening to us.”
Huntington, a radiologist from Corvallis, invoked civil rights. “We get charged up everyday and it’s because of the stories that people tell us about how they’ve suffered under our healthcare non-system,” Huntington said. “They’ve gone bankrupt, they’ve had people in their family suffering. It’s insane what’s happening in this country because of our healthcare mess."
“Martin Luther King pointed out that some of the worst inequality came in healthcare,” Huntington continued. “We think this is the start of a movement. It’s going to bubble through this crust of lies that have been perpetrated to cover up that profit is the motive behind our healthcare system rather than health right now and people are getting mad about it including us mad as hell doctors.”
More excerpts from Kucinich
“We will not see in the next few days or weeks what it is we aspire to,” Kucinich said. “So our commitment is not just for today. Our commitment is for a lifetime. And there can not be a more meaningful reason for our own existence than to realize that what underlies all of our efforts here is a fundamental belief in the sanctity of the principle of human unity, that we are all one, we are all interconnected, that what effects any one of us effects all of us.
“Acting upon that we understand that time, even political time is an illusion that in fact our commitments are forever and when our commitments are forever no matter how long that road is we have to go down, no matter how high the barrier is we have to surmount. We will overcome those barriers; we will go down that road; we will find the day when everyone in this country has healthcare for all. We will be the ones of whom it will be said they led the path for social justice, they led the path to healthcare for all, they led the path to a better country and a better world.”
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