If not now, when?


By Samuel Metz, MD

Maybe Oregon should delay single payer health care for another decade. Let’s listen to what people are saying:

“Single payer is not feasible.”

“ObamaCare and the CCOs need decades to show what they can do.”

“These health care changes are not achievable in our current political climate.”

And these aren’t opponents speaking; these are purported single payer supporters.

The need for a single payer solution to our health crisis grows daily. Every day, another Oregonian dies of a treatable disease because they lacked money for treatment. Every day, 30 Oregon families go bankrupt from medical costs. Every day, Oregon’s health care costs go up another $6 million.

Our worst enemies are not single payer opponents. Our worst enemies are ourselves.

We tell ourselves single payer can’t be done, even though millions of Americans already depend upon single payer for care (they may call it Medicare or the VA, but it’s all single payer). We tell ourselves it’s inconsistent with rugged American capitalism even though 90% of us working for big corporations get care through single payer plans (they’re called “self-funded” but they are 100% single payer). We tell ourselves no one will vote for it even though most polled voters (and physicians) support publicly funded universal health care (that’s what single payer is).

No one will ever tell us it’s safe to move forward. No one will ever tell us that it’s finally time for single payer. We can’t wait for someone else to give us permission.

If we want Oregon legislators to enact single payer health care, they need to know that. How to remove their doubt? Write.

We need to write our state legislators a simple letter: “(1) Here is how our current health care mess has devastated my family or my business. (2) I want single payer health care in Oregon. (3) I want you to make it happen. Sincerely, Your Voting Constituent. P.S. If you want to be sure of my vote, tell me you understand this.”

Write them again in a month, just to be sure.

Imagine every legislator getting ten such letters in a week. And every week after that. None of them can say, “Now is not the time for single payer” because if they do, they won’t be back next term.

It’s time for single payer advocates to put our pencils where our hearts are. Our health care system is tyrannizing our society. Inaction is fatal. Remember Thomas Paine’s words about a similar kind of tyranny:

“These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.”

We cannot shrink from the service of our country. Our efforts today will earn the love and thanks of our families, of our children, and of generations to come.

Write now. Right now. (Contacts here)

Samuel Metz is a private practice anesthesiologist, HCAO representative from the Portland chapter of Physicians for a National Health Program, and founding member of Mad As Hell Doctors.