By Roberta Hall, Mid-Valley Health Care Advocates of Corvallis
On February 4, 2013, the first day of the legislative session, members of Health Care for All-Oregon (HCAO), a coalition of more than 60 member groups from across the state will rally on the Capitol steps in Salem. According to Joanne Cvar, communications chair for HCAO, their goal is to demonstrate the breadth and depth of support that the coalition has developed for an Oregon health care system that is publicly financed and offers comprehensive services to all Oregonians.
The rally on the Capitol steps occupies only the middle part of a very full day of activities that HCAO is sponsoring and is using to inspire and unite its member groups. Supporters who arrive as early as 8:00 a.m. will find an HCAO crew in Room 50 of the Capitol building arranging packets to provide for supporters on the day’s activities. By 9:00, equipment crew members will be setting up canopies and tables outside near the steps, which will function as rally central. When HCAO member groups from all over the state arrive at 9:30, they will be greeted by organizers with specific instructions for the day, which at this writing (Jan. 15) are still being developed.
Leaders in HCAO believe that a large enough presence of their constituents should get health care reform on the agenda of the politicians who can move our legislation and gain additional co-sponsors for a universal coverage bill to be introduced by Rep. Michael Dembrow'. Now titled LC 1914 (Legislative Concept)), it represents a re-invention, with revisions, of H.B. 3510 that was introduced in 2011. H.B. 3510 had a well-attended hearing but was not accorded a vote and hence died in committee.
Health Care for All-Oregon is a coalition of statewide supporter groups as varied as the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Retirees; Jobs with Justice; and Mad as Hell Doctors, who have joined together in a coalition specifically to achieve health care justice in Oregon. HCAO also includes a number of single-locale groups such as the Mid-Valley Health Care Advocates, which formed in the early 1990s to work for a modern, high-quality, publicly financed, privately delivered health care system that leaves no Oregon resident out. The HCAO coalition is non-partisan and includes rural organizations such as the Rural Organizing Project of Scappoose that itself is composed of many local human dignity groups that have formed in small towns and counties all across the state.
Beginning about 10:00 a.m. on Feb. 4 and continuing for the next hour and a half, a number of teams of about 30 marchers will carry signs on behalf of a universal health care system for Oregon as they walk around downtown Salem. Welcoming them back to the Capitol steps at 11:15 will be singers of several Raging Granny groups, and at 11:30 the formal rally will begin, led from the Capitol steps by emcee Jessica Hoffman.
Hoffman has two degrees in public health, and currently is a substitute teacher of health, a position that does not provide health insurance. This status is actually quite common as many part-time teachers and other state workers share the status. Hoffman has been a health care activist since her student days in the Public Health Department at Oregon State University and currently chairs the HCAO Mobilization Committee.
Next speakers at the rally are several individuals with stories that exemplify personal and business problems that are due to current health care structures. Among these are Wes Brain of Ashland, Oregon, a long-time member and advocate with Jobs for Justice, and the Rev. Joel Miller of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Corvallis.
Music will be woven throughout the rally, supplied by the Raging Grannies, Norman Sylvester, and David Rovics. At least one legislator, Rep. Michael Dembrow of Northeast Portland, will speak, as will physician Paul Gorman and nurse Nadine Grzeskowiak. Several surprise guests are planned. The chief unknown is the weather, but all attendees have been instructed to bring rain gear in order to meet the most likely inclement conditions.
After the formal rally, attendees will be given instructions on processes for visiting and talking with their legislators. Local HCAO organizations are arranging ride-sharing and hiring buses. Schedule details and information about transportation options are posted here and on the HCAO FaceBook page. Participants are asked to wear red and to bring a lunch and signs.