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Health Care: The Push for a Better Way 

The battle lines for 2018 are being drawn

  • Sage Ross

In my admittedly overactive imagination, I picture the residents of most of Europe and much of the rest of the world regarding the past year in American politics with bewilderment, amazement and outright concern, as the individual occupying our Oval Office speaks and acts repeatedly against the best interests of most of those inside and outside our borders. The list of concerns is increasingly long and beyond my cataloging completely, but if it only included abandonment of efforts to address climate change, that would be enough to demand our full attention.

But I also imagine the citizens of the rest of the developed world feeling a little smug in witnessing the embarrassing, regressive battle over health care "reform" that took place in the early months of the Trump administration. None of them could be blamed for thinking, "Those Americans can't seem to figure out how to provide affordable, good-quality health care to everyone. We've been there, done that."

It's easy to initiate the health-care-for-all conversation at home these days. Inevitably it includes someone saying, "How come we can't just cover everyone with health insurance like they do in the other civilized countries?" Good question.

With regard to the criteria for this collection of essays, I don't feel that those of us in the Health Care for All movement have lost sight of, or have been distracted from our larger goal—although the distractions have been constant and, I think, intentional. Locally and nationally, we have taken a backseat to, and have been overshadowed by, attacks on reproductive health, immigrants, public lands, public education, net neutrality, ballot access, fair taxation, transparent government and professional athletes(!).  And of course, the loudest voices in response have to be for climate stability.

The battle lines in 2018 are being drawn, and achieving health care for everyone will be at the top of the agenda at every level. Bernie Sanders gave us such a gift in introducing the Improved Medicare for All Act last fall. His efforts have been distorted and trolled, but there's no going back from the articulate challenge he laid down. The next time you call Rep. Greg Walden's Washington, DC, office (at 202-225-6730) invite him to come in person—and often—to your 2nd District to talk about how he will ensure better care for everyone, where no one faces bankruptcy from medical bills. 

The Health Care for All Oregon Coalition (, of which I have been a part for eight years, has gone steadily ahead in laying the groundwork for a ballot measure in 2020 that will establish a single-payer health insurance system for Oregon. (It's essentially the same thing as Medicare for All.) At least 16 other states are on the same trajectory with the same goal. And they're working together.

In laying the groundwork, HCAO has introduced the "Affordable Health Care as a Fundamental Right" bill in the upcoming legislative session. Next time you call your local legislator, tell them you support Rep. Mitch Greenlick's Bill, LC46. HCAO has recently achieved another long-term goal in establishing a Universal Access to Health Care Legislative Working Group to create the legislative strategy toward universal care.

There are a lot of battles to be won as we get from here to 2020. Right now, we have to ensure we don't have to respond to the pointless destructiveness of a NO outcome on Measure 101. That would take us backwards in many ways.

Welcome to Campaign 2018. We're still in Oregon. Keep your eyes on the prize!

David Stranahan works for Health Care For All Oregon Coalition
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