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actions & protests | health

Health Care Rally 09/22/09 Portland, Oregon

Video of march and speakers protesting Big Insurance trying to control debate over health care and stop the public option.
Tuesdays march was attended by over 400 people, many with signs for the public option and single payer, and against big insurance and the for-profit insurance industry. Speakers included someone who'd lost their house because of health care bills, Dr. Paul Gorman, and moveon.org people as well as someone from the AFL-CIO which has come out strongly in favor of Single Payer. The march began at Pettygrove Park and went around 200 Market building housing the offices of Blue Cross Blue Shield.

More details 26.Sep.2009 16:10

Chris Lowe

The rally, which I attended, was initiated by the local MoveOn group I believe, which called similar rallies on the theme of "Big Insurance Makes Us Sick." Other groups favoring a public plan option such as HCAN (Health Care for America Now) joined. The MC and person who kicked off the march was Betsy Dillner, an community organizer for the Northwest Federation of Community Organizations, which has been contracted to organize for HCAN, a national coalition.

The Portland Jobs With Justice Healthcare Committee joined and helped with the organizing once it was agreed that the single payer perspective for which Portland JwJ organizes would be represented.

The speaker explicitly for single payer was Tom Leedham of Teamsters Local 206 and the JwJ Committee. The International Brotherhood of Teamsters is not a member of the AFL-CIO, but of the breakaway Change to Win grouping of unions, so Tom was not speaking for the AFL-CIO. However, it is true that earlier in September the national AFL-CIO convention unanimously endorsed H.R. 676, the Conyers-Kucinich single payer bill in Congress. Likewise in recent months many Oregon labor unions and union bodies, including the Northwest Labor Council with is the central labor council that includes Portland, have endorsed H.R. 676. For a national list of endorsing labor organizations see < http://unionsforsinglepayerhr676.org/> .

Tom gave a pithy and powerful speech about why for-profit health care and insurance fails us and called for passage of H.R. 676.

A counterpart speech advocating a public plan option approach was given by John Vareldzis of MoveOn Portland Council.

Dr. Paul Gorman made the longest speech, focused on the destructiveness of the for-profit health insurance system to people's health and finances. Among the things he said was telling the story of a patient who had been hospitalized once for a heart condition. When she needed hospitalization again, she declined to do it, because she said she had nearly lost her home and her marriage due to the costs even though she was insured, and was certain she would lose them if she were hospitalized again. Dr. Gorman is a member of the Portland chapter Physicians for a National Health Program, a national organization of doctors and other health professionals that advocates for single payer and H.R. 676. He also is associated with the Mad as Hell Doctors, having helped organize support for the docs who actually took their single payer advocacy on the road. At the rally he focused on the destructiveness of private health insurance.

Peter Shapiro of Portland Jobs with Justice Healthcare Committee sang "Blue Cross," a parody about coverage denial set to the tune of "Blue Skies." The striking thing about this song is that the parody was written by Mad Magazine in 1956.

Anyone interested in organizing, mobilizing or otherwise supporting a single payer approach to health reform in the Portland area can go to < http://www.healthcarewithjustice.org> , the JwJ HC Committee site. There are important single payer opportunities in Congress in the next few weeks. JwJ cooperates with other groups including PNHP, Single Payer Action, and Single Pay USA based in Tigard.