As you are reading this, the docs may well be trying to present their findings to white house politicians. Whether they get to do this or not, they have shaken the country up a little bit. And the report below, especially the conversation with Dennis Kucinich, is quite enlightening.
—2 a.m. September 23, Cleveland, OH: As the Mad as Hell Docs tour for single payer nears is destination (in Washington, DC), I again reflect on the journey. In the past several days we’ve been as far south as Nashville and Louisville. Then to back Zenia and Dayton, Detroit, Chicago, Toledo and now Cleveland. Tomorrow we’ll be off to Pittsburgh and then on to Frederick, Columbia and Silver Spings, MD on the last leg toward Lafayette Park across from the White House on September 30. This evening’s town hall style meeting organized by the local single payer network was presented at the Laborers’ Union Hall here in Cleveland before another enthusiastic crowd. We were joined on our panel on stage by, as usual, a local activist doc; and rejoined by Katherine Ottoway the Oregon doc who had returned home last week to spend time with her 11 year old. Bill Aikin, the Washinton state male nurse who joined us about 4 days ago gets one of the more rousing rounds of applause when he merely opens with “I’m a Mad as Hell nurse.” Tonight’s audience again included several other nurses, organizers, representatives of the National Nurses Organizing Committee (California Nurses Association) in their colorful garb. There was again a number of Congresspeople, aides, and state legislators in the audience (7 if I’ve remembered correctly). Also joining us is Bob Wickline from Oregon (and his wife Lynda) who sings and plays his high energy Single Payer country western electronically integrated single payer song. Staff has grown too as we’re joined by Bill Whitaker’s (our Mad as Hell Social Worker)wife Cheryl. Last night’s dinner was prepared (yes I do mean he alone cooked for about 20 people himself, including brownies for desert)Toledo physician activist John Ross, at his home. Earlier John had been a most compelling spokesperson for Single Payer at the town hall at the Union Hall in Toledo. Toledo has a strong single payer advocate for a Congressperson too. Leaving Toledo on Monday morning we travelled East along the shore of Lake Erie to an outdoor presentation in the park at Clinton Habor to 75 local folks who had prepared a brunch for us (passing within 100 feet or so of a nuclear power plant on the lake shore that is within sight of Clinton Harbor). At this venue the organizer/mc, a woman whose name I can not recall, began by leading the crowd in singing the Star Spangled Banner and the Pledge of Allegiance while gale force winds of about 40-50 miles an hour made 58 degrees feel like 45; leading MAHDoc Paul Hochfeld told the audience that he always ads a few words onto the Pledge of Allegiance as follows: “with liberty and justice for all who can afford it,” which was appreciated with laughter. There were about 4 tea bagger types (3 women and a man) in the audience who caused no disruptions but in the comment section one middle aged woman shouted something from the audience but wouldn’t come to the mic although she was told that disagreement is welcomed. A couple of Single Payer advocates talked with these folks and found they simply rejected, or repudiated unasailable facts in our presentations, such as that the U.S. has by far the most expensive health care (non)system in the world at $7,000 per capita per year, so cost of a Medicare for All program is not a problem.
The highlight of Monday, September 28 activities was a tele-conversation between our group and Congressman Dennis Kucinich held at his office with Dennis appearing from D.C. on one of those huge wide screens. Everyone of us put in our two cents worth of a question or comment and he responded with his comments over the 40 minute time span. To my own delight the Congressman highlighted forcefully many of the points that we include in our presentation across the country (Our individual 2-4 minute comments are–or should be– found on the http://www.madashelldoctors.com website). Kucinich’s key points, as best I can remember, included: 1) that Congress is currently so much under the sway of and afraid of the lobbyists that no one should expect anything useful to come out of this legislative session. Any bill that passes will benefit the insurance companies more than the public 2) that he values and supports the importance of our Care-a-Van in motivating and energizing a new grassroots civil rights movement around full access to health care as a right. 3) that building a civil rights movements for health care for all involves building infrastructure and organization that will last for the long haul over as long as it takes 4) that that long term effort includes an indefinable future time after a Single Payer bill is passed and signed because there will be never ending efforts to weaken the program even afer it is put into effect, 5) that docs can play very important role in this movement and should redouble their efforts to bring more physicians into the now 17,000 member Physicians for a National Health Program (www.pnhp.org) 6) that trying to get the President to create a “white ribbon commission” from which the Insurers and the Drug companies are excluded isn’t likely to achieve much, but that docs might consider spearheading local commissions, with public health and medical experts and patient advoctes in some states to travel around gathering testimony at public hearings and presenting reports and recommendations to the public and government on their findings. This approach could help mobilize public opinion and energize people.
The debate among MAHDs over what we will do in DC is narrowing toward a consensus plan. The morning after the rally at Lafayette Park from 4-6 p.m. on September 30 we will join Congressman Kucinich at a press conference at the Capitol. From the press conference we will likely proceed to the White House and attempt to present our findings, video testmonies of hundreds of people who have given witness, and recommendations there, even if we do not get an audience with President Obama. Later we will return to the Capitol for both scheduled meetings and unscheduled meetings with various Congresspersons, including MAHD members own Congressepeople, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. There may also follow a laying of flowers, candles and white ribbons at the Lincoln Memorial or other site in memorialization of the 45,000 people who have died/will die this year in the US due to lack of health care insurance. Readers who want to participate in the care-a-van from Frederick to Silver Springs or join us in walking from McPherson park to Lafayette park at 3:30 p.m. should check the http://www.madashelldoctors.com web site regularly for updated plans.
Marc Sapir MD MPH