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Advocates state the case for a universal health care plan

More than 42 million Americans are uninsured for health care and another 40 million are under insured. The grim numbers have fueled a movement for universal health care in the United States.
Oregonians for Health Security

Sep 25, 2004 - Gazette-Times

Mid-Valley Health Care Advocates, a group that has been working for around 10 years to institute a universal health care system, sponsored a forum this week called, "Why can't we have heath care for all?" Around 70 people gathered Thursday night at the Friends Meeting House in Corvallis to listen to the panel of health care professionals.

Using other democratic countries as examples, the three panel speakers cited statistics and reasons as to why universal health care systems work for those countries and why the United States needs a national health care system.

Dr. Ray Tricker, associate professor of public health at Oregon State University, spoke on the health care systems of Great Britain and New Zealand.

"When people in other countries are asked if they would like to trade their health care system for what we have here, it's an emphatic 'No!'" Tricker said.

In Great Britain, the National Health Service provides care to everyone without regard to income or employment. Although people can also purchase services from the private health sector, nobody is left out.

"It still starts with everyone getting something, which is better than our system where a large portion of the population gets a lot and others get nothing," Tricker said.

The New Zealand government allocates funds to 21 health districts, and elected community members make decisions related to medical services. Those community members are the ones to blame should someone not get adequate treatment, he said.

Dr. Chunhuei Chi, associate professor of public health at OSU, discussed Taiwan and Canada.

In 1995, Taiwan established a National Health Insurance program. The new system did away with 13 different public health insurance plans. People receive generous medical coverage under the new program and can go to any hospital without constraints. The system is paid for by a 4.55 percent payroll tax, which was raised in 2002 from 4.25 percent.

The raise "resulted in an outcry," said Chi. Yet in the United States, insurance companies raise premiums every year, and no one is accountable. "In a private health insurance system, people have no say."

Administrative costs keep our health care costs high, added Chi. Around 25 people work in administration at Toronto General Hospital in Canada while 250 people work in administration at Massachusett General Hospital in the United States. The difference is paperwork. There can be thousands of different claim forms from different insurance companies.

Paul Gorman, M.D., associate professor of medical informatics at Oregon Health and Sciences University, spoke about the health care system in the United States.

"Our system is so Byzantine, I can't even explain it," Gormon said. There are so many instances where people don't get the adequate medical care they need. "It happens all the time."

Gormon listed all of the people that are not benefitting from our system. They include the uninsured who wait too long to get care, the one in twelve health professionals who don't have insurance, small employers and tax payers.

"I can't think of a way in which health care is working except for the private insurance companies," he said.

Mid-Valley Health Care Advocates invited forum attendees to consider HR 676, the United States National Health Insurance Act, otherwise known as the "Expanded and Improved Medicare For All Bill." By creating a publicly financed, privately delivered health care program, the legislation would ensure that all Americans, guaranteed by law, have access to the highest quality and cost effective health care services regardless of employment, income, or health care status.

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