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Mad as Hell Doctors unite over health care reform

Sandy Mayes, left, and Linda Frank participated in a Mad as Hell Doctors health care reform rally near St. Francis Hospital on Tuesday. Mayes, of Olympia, is a registered nurse. Frank, of Tacoma, is a concerned citizen. As supporters of Mad as Hell Doctors, both are pushing for the nation to adopt single payer health insurance.  - Jacinda Howard/The Mirror
Sandy Mayes, left, and Linda Frank participated in a Mad as Hell Doctors health care reform rally near St. Francis Hospital on Tuesday. Mayes, of Olympia, is a registered nurse. Frank, of Tacoma, is a concerned citizen. As supporters of Mad as Hell Doctors, both are pushing for the nation to adopt single payer health insurance.
— image credit: Jacinda Howard/The Mirror

A group of physicians, steaming over what they see as the nation's failed health care system, visited Federal Way on Sept. 8.

Mad as Hell Doctors is a small group of individuals that are caravanning to Washington, D.C. Their message: America must take the necessary time to get universal health care right; single payer health care is the solution and House Resolution 676, introduced by Congressman John Conyers (D-Mich.) is the first essential step.

Mad as Hell's Federal Way visit was an opportunity to recruit supporters and engage in a brief rally, held near St. Francis Hospital, for health care reform.

America's current health care system does not serve all of its population, the group said. Those without insurance go untreated, and many patients not always cared for in the most effective way, said Dr. Paul Hochfeld, an emergency room physician in Corvallis, Ore.

There is an unlimited demand for limited resources, Hochfeld said. Lots of money is put into technology that offers only marginal benefits, he said. Additionally, too much of the money spent on health care goes to private insurers, rather than being used to treat patients, he said.

"Our health care system is way more profound and corrupt than most people know," Hochfeld said.

America is in need of a system that includes doctors, physicians, nurses and all those in the medical field to help determine the best use of resources, Hochfeld said.

Dr. Katherine Ottaway, a family physician from Port Townsend, will accompany the Mad as Hell group to Colorado. She joined the caravan after parting ways with an old employer, which she said demanded her to spend less time with each patient. Now, Ottaway hopes to start her own practice. But she also hopes to be able to serve all those who come to her for help, regardless of whether they have health insurance.

"I want to be able to take care of any patient that walks in," Ottaway said.

First steps toward reform

Hochfeld, Ottaway and the Mad as Hell group promoted single payer health insurance at their Federal Way stop. This is a system in which citizens' medical services are payed for through a single source that is managed by the government or a pubic agency. Funding comes through tax revenues from individuals and employers. The model eliminates private insurance companies from the medical mix.

Several of the caravanning participants' who showed up drove vehicles with signs promoting the single payer concept. A line of about 40 individuals held signs and banners. Across the country, they plan to gather more support, and hold rallies and town halls to educate the public on the matter.

"We are trying to bring the conversation up about single payer," Seattle resident Fioni Cippoletti said. "We're trying to drive across country and pick up momentum as we go."

Mad as Hell Doctors urges the passing of U.S. House of Representatives Resolution 676, also known as the National Health Care Act. The resolution will offer all residents of the United States and its territories comprehensive health insurance coverage, according to its text. It's the first step toward reform, Tacoma resident Linda Frank said.

The resolution introduces a health care system in which clinicians who participate will not bill citizens for the services they provide. They will instead submit bills, via one common form, to a regional director.

A fund consisting of federal government health care revenues; money generated from an increased income tax on the top 5 percent of income earners; a progressive excise tax on payroll and self-employment income; and a minimal tax on stock and bond transactions would pay for the services provided to America's citizens, according to the resolution.

The House committees of Energy and Commerce, Ways and Means and Natural Resources are currently reviewing the resolution. If passed, it is expected to take a year to put in place, according to the resolution. The Mad group's journey to the White House will end Oct. 1. There, they hope to speak with President Barack Obama.

Learn more

• Visit the Mad as Hell Doctors Web site at www.madashelldoctors.com to learn more about the group.

• Visit http://kucinich.house.gov/UploadedFiles/HR_676_111th.pdf to read the full text of HR 676.

• Visit www.pnhp.org/facts/singlepayer_faq.php#insurance_companies to learn more about single payer health care.

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