Five days on the road, and a group of physicians from Washington, Oregon and Arizona are truly mad as hell about the nation's health-care system and the way the reform debate has shaped up.
Especially infuriating, the self-named Mad as Hell doctors said during a town-hall meeting at the Salt Lake City Library on Saturday, is President Barack Obama's apparent dismissal of a single-payer system which they say would insure every American and cost the least.
Even Obama's Wednesday night health-care speech was nothing more than "a Band-aid clinging to the edges of a gaping, stinking wound," said Salt Lake City attorney-physician Clark Newhall, whose stemwinder call to action prompted a crowd of 75 to shout out their disapproval.
"Health care is a right," Newhall cried. "We have a moral obligation to take care of our fellow citizens. Everybody in! Nobody out!"
The rally started with a clip from the 1976 film, "Network," in which actor Peter Finch as news anchor Howard Beale exhorts the nation to go to a window and shout, "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!"
The traveling Mad as Hell Doctors -- Katharine Ottaway from Port Townsend, Wash.; Paul Hochfeld, of Corvallis, Ore; Joe Eusterman, of Wilsonville, Ore.; and Tim Jordan, of Phoenix -- are just as angry as Beale, and with other physicians have filed a formal request to meet with Obama sometime after they arrive in Washington on Oct. 1.
They want to talk about one thing: single-payer health care. The president has yet to respond, the group said.
Starting in Portland, Ore., on Monday, the doctors have traveled in a rented recreational vehicle throughout the northwest to Salt Lake City. They will travel on to at least 15 more cities before mustering with anyone who wants to join them in Gettysburg, Pa.
Then it's on to Washington, where they hope to tell the president why all the fuss over the public option and reform and allowing insurance companies to retain control over health-care delivery misses the point entirely.
"Our health care system is broken," said Hochfeld, "because it costs too much."
Taking insurance companies out of the equation and allowing doctors to redirect bills to a single public fund would cut $800 billion now going to administrative overhead and profiting off people's sickness from the $2.4 trillion spent this year on health care, Newhall said.
The audience, mostly like-minded on the need for single-payer health care, took turns before a documentary camera offering their own mad-as-hell commentary.
"I can't believe a country like this is turned against itself," said James Cooksey, a member of the Boilermakers union who attended the town-hall meeting. "I'm 57 and I've never seen anything like it."
But Richard Passoth, a Salt Lake City family therapist, told the doctors they needed to talk to their own about how their profiteering has poisoned the system. "Doctors have been a major part of this problem for decades," he said.
don't have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad. It's a depression. Everybody's out of work or scared of losing their job. The dollar buys a nickel's worth; banks are going bust; shopkeepers keep a gun under the counter; punks are running wild in the street, and there's nobody anywhere who seems to know what to do, and there's no end to it.
We know the air is unfit to breathe and our food is unfit to eat. And we sit watching our TVs while some local newscaster tells us that today we had fifteen homicides and sixty-three violent crimes, as if that's the way it's supposed to be!
We all know things are bad-- worse than bad -- they're crazy.
It's like everything everywhere is going crazy, so we don't go out any more. We sit in the house, and slowly the world we're living in is getting smaller, and all we say is, "Please, at least leave us alone in our living rooms. Let me have my toaster and my TV and my steel-belted radials, and I won't say anything. Just leave us alone."
Well, I'm not going to leave you alone.
want you to get mad!
don't want you to protest. I don't want you to riot. I don't want you to write to your Congressman, because I wouldn't know what to tell you to write. I don't know what to do about the depression and the inflation and the Russians and the crime in the street.
All I know is that first, you've got to get mad.
You've gotta say, "I'm a human being, goddammit! My life has value!"
So, I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window, open it, and stick your head out and yell, "I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!!"
A growing group of doctors are pushing to put single-payer health care back into the current debate. They support H.R. 676, The United States National Health Insurance Act, sponsored by Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich. and Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio
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