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Wis. physician: ‘Gov. Walker, Tear up this bill!’

The following text is an unofficial, slightly edited transcript of a March 5 speech made by Dr. Charles Benedict of Beloit, Wis., to a large crowd outside of the State Capitol in Madison who gathered there to protest Gov. Scott Walker’s budget repair bill. Benedict is a retired neurologist, former representative in the State Assembly and longtime single-payer advocate. He was joined on the speaker’s platform by about 20 colleagues and health professional students.
 
Emcee: Please give a warm welcome to Chuck Benedict and all the medical students who marched here from campus today. [Prolonged cheers.]
 
Dr. Charles Benedict: I hope this is a reinforced platform here. We’ve got a lot of support up here. [Many chants of “Thank you! Thank you!”] Thank all of you.
 
I want to start off by thanking the medical students, some of my colleagues – there are physicians up here, there are nurses up here, there are future physicians, future nurses, health care people, social workers. We’re all banding together in support of the cause up here, which is to – and we usually don’t like to use this word – kill the bill!
 
In fact, I’m finding that this bill makes us ill. (You can see I wasn’t an English major!)
 
I’m up here today mainly because I’m a single-payer advocate, that is, I favor a properly funded Medicare for everybody. I supported single payer long before I ever got into the State Assembly.
 
There is a national group, Physicians for a National Health Program, which has been advocating for this approach to health reform for well over a decade, since the ’90s, maybe even before that – before I was politically aware.
 
We have a strong group here, a strong Wisconsin chapter of Physicians for a National Health Program, the Gene and Linda Farley chapter. And in fact Gene and Linda Farley were mentors of mine in bridging politics and health care. And of course that’s been my passion.
 
For the whole time I was in the State Assembly I was frustrated because we didn’t make as much progress as I would have liked, but at least until this year we did very well. Gov. Jim Doyle did a very good job, getting 98 percent of people covered in this state, with much better health outcomes than almost any other state. So I’m proud of that work.
 
The motto of our state is “Forward.” In my considered opinion, we could best move forward if we had in place a single-payer health care system. We would cut health care costs, we would cover everybody, we would enjoy much better health in general.
 
Unfortunately, that’s not why we’re here right now. We’re here to stop us from going retro, to stop us from going backwards, because part of our new governor’s bill is to undermine and underfund BadgerCare, which has been so good. He wants to make stricter requirements to get on BadgerCare and I think that’s an outrage. There’s so much else in this bill that’s an outrage, but I’ll let other people address that. I’m concerned mostly with the health care issues.
 
I would also like to thank my state senator, Tim Cullen, and his 13 colleagues who are actually sacrificing quite a bit [by staying out of state to deny the Senate a quorum]. They can’t be with their families, but they’re sticking with it and I encourage them.
 
I’ll stop now except for one more thing. What I would like to like to say to Gov. Walker is this: “Gov. Walker, Tear up this bill!”
 
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Related:
PNHP Wisconsin statement on Gov. Scott Walker’s budget bill:
http://www.pnhp.org/news/2011/march/wis-doctors-group-opposes-governors-budget-bill
 
PNHP’s national statement on the bill:
http://www.pnhp.org/news/2011/march/wisconsin-battle-crucial-for-health-and-democracy-doctors-group