Last night, the Mad as Hell Doctors, a group of activist physicians and health care providers, marched across town in an effort to raise awareness about universal health care and calling “Obamacare” a bare-minimum reform. From Anapamu Street to Canon Perdido, the sound of drums and cheers filled the air while passersby honked their horns and offered high fives and other plaudits.
The group of 50 marchers consisted of members of Physicians for a National Health Program, the Progressive Democrats, and the Santa Barbara and Santa Maria branches of Health Care for All (California). The march led into to a public forum at the Santa Barbara Central Public Library’s Faulkner Gallery hosted by Mike Huntington, a retired oncologist from Corvallis, Oregon. Organized with the help of Santa Barbara healthcare activists Peter and Paulina Conn, the forum drew a crowd of over 100.
Mad as Hell Doctors (MAHD) will head to Sacramento on October 12. They argue that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of March 2010 just doesn’t cut it. They hope their tour will strengthen efforts to pass, in this state, Senate Bill 810, the California Universal Healthcare Act. MAHD also wants to pass House Resolution 676, also known as the United States National Health Care Act or the Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act, which would reduce up to 75 percent of out-of-pocket costs.
Single-payer health care calls for a pool of funds, contributed by taxpayers, to pay for healthcare, cutting out middle-man: health insurance companies. According to members of this movement, insurance companies primarily create hassles, and take up to 30 percent of funds to pay for administration, political campaigns, and profits for investors. An increase of profit is achieved by denying coverage—a tactic implemented by insurance companies far too often.
If SB 810 and HR 676 pass, there would be no more need for private health insurance companies—out-of-work employees would be eligible for training and first preference for jobs under the new health care system, and would be provided up to two years of unemployment under HR 676.
In the event SB 810 passes, the ideal of “Everybody in, nobody out” would be implemented and overall health care would not see an increase in spending, according to Bill Smiley, a local activist. The reason why single-payer health care has not yet been approved is that insurance companies are constantly seeking a profit, he said.
“If California adopts [SB 810], it would sweep through the U.S. like wildfire,” said Smiley, in reference to this being California’s fourth attempt to establish a more beneficial health care system.
Local physicians Dr. Van Hamilton from Sansum and Dr. William Mellers from Med Center were present at the forum and spoke about the inefficiency of the United States current health care system, which they called one of the weakest in the world. Also present were physicians Norman Castillo, Marc Sapir, and Margaret Flowers. The latter has been arrested on three separate occasions during demonstrations for universal health care. A Congressional Fellow for Physicians for a National Health Program, Flowers took the campaign to Congress in 2009, claiming perks include saving and improving lives, saving money, and increasing life expectancy.
“Single-payer health reform is the approach approved by the majority of Americans,” said Flowers, during the demonstration in Santa Barbara. “Health insurance companies don’t care about your health,” she added. “Congress needs to listen to people, not health insurance companies. Health care is a human right.”
The Mad as Hell Doctors are also mad because, frankly, not enough people, especially young people, are mad. MAHD encourages people to build a broad social movement, to speak out, spread the word, join organizations, and rally for the cause.
MAHD accepts tax-deductible donations and shares them with local organizations that help them assemble public forums.