Oregon needs single-payer health care

By Bill Whitaker
Wallowa County Chieftain (Enterprise, Ore.), May 8, 2013

Many Wallowa County families and businesses are facing financial catastrophe because of the increasing cost of health insurance and medical care. They hope that the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) will cure their problems. Unfortunately it will not.

The Oregon legislature has the opportunity to pull Oregon back from the health care brink. HB 2922, The Affordable Health Care for All Oregon Plan Act, would establish a universal single-payer health care system for all of Oregon. Passing this bill would allow every family in Oregon to get the health care they need when they need it. Oregonians would spend no more on health care than they do now, probably less.

Objections to HB 2922 are not financial: at this moment single-payer systems throughout the U.S. and in Oregon provide better care to more people for less money than our private insurance industry. Almost every large business in Oregon uses its own private single-payer system (also known as “self-funded”) to finance health care for its employees. All our armed forces and veterans get their health care through single-payer systems.

Single-payer is not experimental. It provides access when needed. It costs less than private health insurance. And people who receive single-payer care are healthier than they would be with private insurance.

Oddly, the biggest objections to creating a single-payer system in Oregon are not financial. They are based on the erroneous assumption that the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) will solve all our problems.

Here’s why Obamacare takes us closer to the brink of catastrophe.

Obamacare will not improve access to health care. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates the ACA will leave 60 million Americans under-insured (at risk for bankruptcy if a family member gets the wrong disease at the wrong time) or uninsured (with no access to care whatsoever). We do not yet have a study in Oregon, but we can expect 700,000 Oregonians to be left at risk for medical bankruptcy or death from a treatable disease – if the ACA works perfectly.

Obamacare will increase, not decrease, health care costs. Although government spending goes down, expenses for patients go up; the CBO estimates a $100 billion annual increase. We can expect annual costs in Oregon to increase by over $1 billion – if the ACA works perfectly.

The ACA will not improve public health. We know this because of the experience in Massachusetts. Since implementing its own version of Obamacare in 2006 (now known as “RomneyCare”), nearly 100 percent of Massachusetts residents own a health insurance policy. However, measures of public health have not improved; medical bankruptcies have increased 30 percent; and health care costs in Massachusetts are rising faster than any region in the country. (Massachusetts began with the highest health care costs in the country and still leads all other states).

What does all this mean for Oregon? After we fully implement Obamacare, we can expect health care to remain dangerously inaccessible, our health care costs and medical bankruptcies to increase, and our public health to continue to deteriorate – if the ACA works perfectly.

Obamacare is not the answer. The consequences of Obamacare will make health care reform in Oregon more urgent than ever. Oregon must act decisively now to protect our health care in the future.

Oregon needs and deserves single-payer health care. A public hearing on HB 2922 will be held in Salem on May13. Every resident of Wallowa County and eastern Oregon should ask Rep. Bob Jenson and Sen. Bill Hansell about HB 2922 and what it can do for you and your family’s health care.

For further information about how you can help bring health care to every person in Oregon, contact: Oregon Rural Action Health Care Reform Action Team,, 541-663-1358. See our website at You can help ensure every Oregonian gets the health care they need. Everybody in, nobody out!

Bill Whitaker is co-chair of the Oregon Rural Action Health Care Reform Action Team.