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Single Payer Advocates Crash Wyden Meeting

Single Payer Action
May 25, 2009

http://www.singlepayeraction.org/blog/?p=739

Advocates of a single payer health care system held a silent protest demonstration at Senator Ron Wyden's town hall meeting in Forest Grove, Oregon on Sunday.

The protesters demanded that Senator Wyden open the debate on health care reform to include advocates of a single payer, everybody in, nobody out, free choice of doctor and hospital health care system.

The protesters charged that Senator Wyden is backing a health care plan that is mere piecemeal tinkering of the current system.

About ten minutes into the event Rick Staggenborg MD, of Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP), asked Senator Wyden if he would sit down with single payer advocates.

Wyden remains steadfastly opposed to single payer, but said he would sit down with the single payer advocates.

But Senator Wyden did nothing to ensure that single payer advocates were represented in recent Senate Finance Committee hearings.

Big business and health insurance companies dominated the sessions.

More than 41 witnesses testified over three days of hearings on health care before the Committee.

Not one of the 41 was an advocate of a single payer system -- even though recent polls show that the majority of Americans, the majority of doctors and even the majority of health economists favor a single payer system.

Thirteen doctors, nurses, lawyers and other single payer activists were arrested at those hearings for demanding that one single payer advocate be allowed to testify.

All were charged with "disruption of Congress" and face arraignment starting this week in Washington, D.C.

About fifteen minutes into the Wyden town hall meeting, five single payer activists walked to the front of the room and put on surgical masks with messages written on them.

"Everybody in. Nobody out," read one.

Another read -- "Healthcare is for people, not for profit."

The activists were Single Payer Action's Philip Kauffman, Dr. Joe Eusterman of PNHP, Jamie Partridge of the Portland Jobs with Justice Healthcare Committee, an unidentified woman, and Martha Perez, a healthcare professional based in Portland.

Wyden did not recognize the silent protesters until a news photographer began taking photos.

Wyden then turned and was surprised by the presence of the protesters. (See video here.)

But the protesters continued their silent protest as a backdrop to Senator Wyden as he took questions for over an hour.

About 60 citizens attended the town hall meeting.

"A majority of the people who attended the Wyden town hall meeting support single payer and many thanked us for our silent protest," said Kauffman. "Wyden parroted the insurance industry line that we need a ‘uniquely American' approach to healthcare. At that point a member of the audience said -- ‘I think we already have a uniquely American system. It doesn't work.'"

"I respect what Senator Wyden has done for this state and country," Dr. Eusterman said. "He has been courageous and honorable, but on the issue of health care, he is dead wrong."