Oregon Progressives Tackle Universal Health Care

Ernie Shannon's picture
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Since a group of Oregon activists have been left out of the national debate over health care insurance, they are now a coalition determined to push universal health care in Oregon and the nation-at-large.

While some liberals in the Democratic Party sought to make universal health care the foundation for health care reform in 2009, more moderate thinking Democrats settled on reform that included a role for private sector health care and insurance companies. This decision effectively froze out groups unwilling to compromise and now an organization in Oregon consisting of 28 unions, non-profits, and grassroots entities has formed and a membership agreement, bylaws, and an interim executive committee.

The coalition emerged from four other groups: Health Care for All-Oregon, Portland Jobs with Justice, Mad as Hell Doctors, and Physicians for a National Health Program. They are now called the Oregon Single Payer Campaign (OSPC). Recently, Salem-News.com reported that more than 500 people attended an OSPC conference in Portland and learned that the goal of the organization is to engage all communities across Oregon in a conversation about what people should expect of their health insurance system.

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The Single Payer Campaign supported the introduction of a bill last year that called upon the Oregon legislature to enact universal health insurance. The effort mirrors a similar attempt in California to implement a single-payer system through legislative fiat, but the effort recently failed to escape the California Senate. The bill fell short on a 19 – 15 vote primarily because four Democrats abstained while another voted “no.” The measure didn’t receive any Republican support as expected.

Single payer advocates have also campaigned in the U.S. Congress for universal health care, also unsuccessfully. In his book called “Inside National Health Reform”, John McDonough said that while Congressional advocates have attempted many times to bring universal health care to the table only to be stymied by Republican opponents and Democrats unwilling to support what they considered to be a very unpopular concept, those efforts will continue as well.

“Despite the passage of the Affordable Care Act, the single-payer option will not disappear from the political landscape,” McDonough said. “The fact is that in Congress, while single payer was preferred by many Democrats, it also was not a deciding issue.”

Oregon’s OSPC hopes for a different result as it launches its program. Its leaders claim that more than 600,000 Oregonians don’t have health insurance and that the time to act is now.

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