September 10, 2009 in City

Physicians make their case for single-payer health care

‘Mad as Hell Doctors’ draw crowds in Spokane
By The Spokesman-Review
Dan Pelle photo

People participating in the “Mad as Hell Doctors” event turn toward the U.S. Courthouse to shout out their view of health care reform Wednesday in downtown Spokane.
(Full-size photo)(All photos)

A group of physicians calling themselves “Mad As Hell Doctors” vowed Wednesday in Spokane to keep pushing Congress toward a government-run plan.

Two crowds gathered Wednesday, the first outside the U.S. Courthouse and the second at the Gonzaga University School of Law, drawing about 200 people each.

The campaign is a national push by family medicine doctors to create a national health care system that arranges the payment of services to doctors, hospitals, and other health care providers from a single source established and managed by government. Such a system would essentially replace private insurance companies with a single public entity.

In his speech to Congress on Wednesday, President Barack Obama mentioned single-payer only in passing. And critics have assailed such plans as socialized medicine.

Yet many who voted Obama into the White House are angry.

Dr. Katherine Ottaway, a family doctor in Port Townsend, Wash., told the crowds that insurance denials are hurting her patients and that hospital administrators have turned medical centers into profit treadmills that require doctors to meet patient quotas.

“This has to stop,” she said in support of a single-payer system controlled by an agency governed by public health officials.

Art Hathaway, a retired National Park Service employee from Cheney, is worried about passing along a dysfunctional profit-driven health care system to his grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

“Somebody has to do something,” he said.

Ottaway shrugged off the president’s speech as irrelevant.

“I’m not giving up, no matter what Obama says,” she said.

Dr. Robert Seward, a retired doctor and former physician at Spokane’s VA Medical Center, said reforming health care into a national single-payer system would deliver better preventative care and begin to curb the medical access disparity between rich and poor.

Many people at two events Wednesday took a microphone, stared into a Web cam and stated why they are “mad as hell” about the problems of health care.

Their stories are being uploaded to the Mad as Hell Doctors Web site.

The Mad as Hell Doctors tour across the county will end with a Sept. 30 rally in Washington, D.C.

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