Bill Moyer's is America's most courageous TV broadcaster. On Friday May 22, 2009 Moyers pointed his cameras, microphones and questions at three impressive, articulate and determined guests who took the opportunity to open fire upon the despised, failed, for-profit private health insurance industry. It was the opening TV salvo in what surely will be a long and bloody conflict in America and Oregon.

Bill Moyers
Bill Moyers

In 2003, a young Illinois state senator named Barack Obama told an AFL-CIO meeting, “I am a proponent of a single-payer universal health care program.” [Not a single legislator in Oregon has shown the courage to make a similar statement. Every one of them, including Oregon's congressional delegation, is bought and paid for by health insurance industry lobbyists.]

Single payer. Universal. That’s health coverage, like Medicare, but for everyone who wants it. Single payer eliminates insurance companies as pricey middlemen. The government pays care providers directly. It’s a system that polls consistently have shown the American people favoring by as much as two-to-one.

There was only one thing standing in the way, Obama said six years ago: “All of you know we might not get there immediately because first we have to take back the White House, we have to take back the Senate and we have to take back the House.”

Fast forward six years. President Obama has everything he said was needed – Democrats in control of the executive branch and both chambers of Congress. So what’s happened to single payer? [Barack Obama is headed toward being one of America's great presidents. But he won't make it if he fails to lead America toward a single payer system.]

... Wheelers and dealers from the health sector aren’t waiting. According to the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics, they’ve spent more than $134 million on lobbying in the first quarter of 2009 alone. And some already are shelling out big bucks for a publicity blitz and ads attacking any health care reform that threatens to reduce the profits from sickness and disease.

THE WASHINGTON POST’s health care reform blog reported Monday that Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina has hired an outside PR firm to put together a video campaign assaulting Obama’s public plan. And this month alone, the group Conservatives for Patients’ Rights is spending more than a million dollars for attack ads. They’ve hired a public relations firm called CRC – Creative Response Concepts. You remember them – the same high-minded folks who brought you the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, the gang who savaged John Kerry’s service record in Vietnam.

The ads feature the chairman of Conservatives for Patients’ Rights, Rick Scott. Who’s he? As a former deputy inspector general from the Department of Health and Human Services told THE NEW YORK TIMES, “He hopes people don’t Google his name.”

Scott’s not a doctor; he just acts like one on TV. He’s an entrepreneur who took two hospitals in Texas and built them into the largest health care chain in the world, Columbia/HCA. In 1997, he was fired by the board of directors after Columbia/HCA was caught in a scheme that ripped off the Feds and state governments for hundreds of millions of dollars in bogus Medicare and Medicaid payments, the largest such fraud in history. The company had to cough up $1.7 billion dollars to get out of the mess.

Donna Smith
Donna Smith

If we give up, then we do hand it over to the corporate interests. No human rights struggle in the history of this country's been an easy one. This is a human rights struggle. We're going to win it, but we're going to have to keep fighting and struggling and speaking out. There may have to be more people arrested. There may have to be more brave nurses out there speaking out, but we're going to win this. [Think about my favorite Oregon political hero, Abigail Scott Duniway, and her 40 year struggle in Oregon to win the right to vote for women. She spent much of that time fighting with her brother, Harvey Scott, who, as editor of the Portland Oregonian, wrote editorials against women's suffrage. Today, the Oregonian remains firmly in protect the failed health insurance industry mode. Abigail, who also fought for the right for women to own property would have battled her brother and the Oregonian over women's rights to health care.]

David Himmelstein
Dr. David Himmelstein

Sidney Wolfe
Dr. Sidney Wolfe

DR. SIDNEY WOLFE: It's a Harris poll last fall. One out of 14 people think that the health insurance industry is honest and trustworthy. On the other hand, in Washington, they're in bed with the health insurance industry. Just as Wall Street and the banks have bought the Congress to get what they want in terms of the bailout, the health insurance industry has bought and influenced members of Congress and the President so much that they don't even consider the possibility of a plan that doesn't have a health insurance industry.

DR. DAVID HIMMELSTEIN: That's the big problem here is people want to find a solution that they can get through without a big fight with the insurance industry. Unfortunately it's economically and medically nonsensical - you can't actually have a health care program that works, if you keep the insurance industry alive.

DR. SIDNEY WOLFE: There is no way we are ever going to get to having good health insurance for everyone, as long as there's a health insurance industry, in the way, obstructing care.

BILL MOYERS: You are both doctors, but are there many doctors like you in support of single-payer? Is there any evidence of their numbers?

DR. DAVID HIMMELSTEIN: Well, we actually started our group, Physicians for a National Health Program with just a few of us. But we now have 16 thousand members. So, there are a lot of doctors who are activists on this issue. But more than that, surveys are showing that most doctors support national health insurance-

Facing something close to a 4 Billion dollar revenue short fall Oregon legislators continue, behind closed doors, to secretly scheme their way into taxing hospitals and health insurance companies (which will most certainly be passed on to patients and customers) to begin to pay the Billion dollars plus cost for last sessions unfunded, monstrously complicated, destined for failure SB329.

Our neighbor to the south, California, has twice passed a single payer bill. Twice vetoed by its health care "terminator" governor. As Arnold is "term limited" out of office his successor will likely follow the will of the people.

Health care is a right of all citizens not a privilege granted by taxpayers to public employees and those who work for large corporations. It is also good public policy to have both an educated and healthy body politic. The solution to Oregon's moral and economic health care crisis must be based on a model in which elected officials and public employees and voters and taxpayers have EQUAL ACCESS to the SAME LEVEL of health care NOT a continuation of our current MULTITIERED health insurance CLASS system.

Oregonians like other Americans want classless universal HEALTH CARE NOT universal HEALTH INSURANCE class warfare.

Richard Ellmyer
Richard Ellmyer