Mad as Hell Doctors demand healthcare reform

Christopher Jackson, Staff Writer

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Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Of all forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.”

The Mad As Hell Doctors, a group of traveling physicians, came to SRJC’s Newman Auditorium on Sept. 24 to give a lecture on America’s healthcare system, and the ways single-payer healthcare could improve it. Dr. Paul Hochfeld, an emergency room doctor, founded the group while working at a hospital in Corvallis, Ore. He asked himself, how does the healthcare system function? Unable to answer the question himself, he decided to make a film, “Health, Money, and Fear,” to uncover the business’s inner-workings. Along with doctors Mike Huntington and Mark Sapir, Hochfeld drives across the country advocating healthcare reform, even working with Congressman and 2008 presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich.

It helps to first have an understanding of what a single-payer healthcare system is, and how it differs from our current private business model, because as Dr. Huntington said, “I’ve been asked, does single-payer mean only single people have to pay?” Currently, the 1,300 different insurance companies operating in America divide us, the population, into risk pools, and depending on the pool give us insurance, partial insurance, or no insurance at all. Under a single-payer system the entire U.S. population would be lumped into one risk pool governed by a single entity. People would pay according to their means, and insurance would be available to all.

Introducing himself, Dr. Hochfeld said, “I’m sort of mad as hell for a lot of reasons, well, moderately peeved anyway.” Mostly he is upset that single-payer healthcare was never discussed in this year’s healthcare reform debate in congress, as rising insurance costs only compounded many families’ financial woes from an ailing economy. According to Dr. Hochfeld, currently 15 to 20 percent of insurance fees go to administration and servicing the company, tasks such as filling out paperwork and filing. A single-payer system would knock that right off the top, as well as reducing the profit percentage from 12-to-18 to 2-to-4 percent.

Dr. Huntington and Dr. Sapir focused on healthcare for all as a civil right, that in order to maintain a productive workforce a nation must provide for its citizens health, noting that even Chancellor Otto Van Bismarck instituted healthcare for all Germans in the 1870s. Many get health insurance from their employers, but for those struggling in the job market, no job means no health insurance. However, even those with insurance struggle. Of the 500,000 people to go bankrupt from medical costs, most had insurance, but lost their coverage when they got sick.

“We have a healthcare system that disregards family values, in fact tramples on them,” Huntington said.

The Mad As Hell Doctors ended with a song called “This Plan is Your Plan,” to the tune of “This Land is Your Land” by Woody Guthrie. Along with the audience they sang, “This plan is your plan, this plan is my plan. From Crescent City, to San Diego. Healthcare for all is, all we’re asking. This plan is made for you and me.”


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