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Rally Challenges Legislature to Fix Broken System

April 7, 2009

Salem, OR – More than a million Oregonians are without health insurance, and some will be on the State Capitol steps on Wednesday, April 8, to tell lawmakers it's time to start voting on reforms to Oregon's healthcare system.

At a "Health Care Action Day" rally, a coalition of consumer and senior advocacy groups and labor unions predicts hundreds of people will turn out to show their support for House Bill 2009. It would create a single agency, the Oregon Health Authority, to oversee all health-related programs in the state.

Carla Spence, field coordinator for the caregivers' union, SEIU Local 503, believes there may eventually be federal progress on healthcare - but says Oregon can't afford to wait for it.

"What we're doing is to really advocate for improvements in access and affordability. We have a system that is unsustainable, in terms of the number of people who are uninsured having a cost shift onto those who are insured."

Beverly Massey of Lincoln City is a home care worker who plans to attend the rally. She wants lawmakers to know about one of her clients, a stroke victim who is just barely able to live on Social Security income.

"Every prescription is a new reason for worry – will the insurance cover it? And then, she's heard all the rumors of clients being cut off of the Oregon Health Plan because of our budget crisis, and she's terrified that she could get cut off."

Backers of HB 2009 say it would expand the Oregon Health Plan, help more small businesses and individuals find coverage, and cut the number of uninsured Oregonians by one-third. Opponents don't like the fact that it would be funded in part by fees charged to hospitals and insurance companies.

The Health Care Action Day rally takes place on Wednesday at noon, in front of the State Capitol building in Salem.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR