Kurt Schrader has a tough job.
As the U.S. representative for Oregon's 5th Congressional District, Schrader answers to constituents living here in Lake Oswego, with the highest residential property values in the state; in Breitenbush, near the crest of the Cascades; in Tillamook County, badly hit by the loss of timber subsidies; and everywhere in between.
With radically different daily lives, we seemingly have no interests in common. Except health care.
Unforeseen health care costs are the No. 1 cause of bankruptcies in the U.S. Few of our families could financially survive an expensive cancer, a prolonged hospitalization with long recovery, a major unexpected trauma or a sudden diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. As a physician, I have seen this happen to many individuals, since despite our best efforts at prevention, life is random. All of us need (or will need) health care, and none of us are assured we will be able to pay for it when we need it.
The Affordable Care Act (also known as "Obamacare") did not change that. The American Health Care Act (also known as "Ryancare" or "Trumpcare") will not change that, either. Currently, even with the Affordable Care Act, 29 million Americans lack health insurance (and 30 million more lack adequate coverage). The Congressional Budget Office predicts that under current proposals, an additional 23 million would lose their insurance by 2026.
To our discredit, every other developed nation provides better care to more people for less money than we do, and they remove the risk of medical bankruptcy caused by paying for a treatable condition. Even more to our discredit, every other developed nation offers universal health care, a characteristic sadly lacking in the Affordable Care Act, the American Health Care Act and the latest Senate health care discussions.
Rep. Schrader can remedy that. He can bring the U.S. one step closer to providing better care to more people for less money (according to multiple independent studies and bipartisan government agencies). He can co-sponsor the only bill in the House that would provide nationwide universal health care, eliminate medical bankruptcies and assure health care access to everyone.
That bill is the Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act, HR 676, submitted by Michigan Rep. John Conyers. HR 676, America's national single-payer health care bill, now has 110 co-sponsors in the House. That's half the Democrats and one quarter of all U.S. representatives. By co-sponsoring HR 676, Rep. Schrader would bring his credibility and prestige to a bill already co-sponsored by Oregon Reps. Earl Blumenauer, Suzanne Bonamici and Peter DeFazio.
All of us, the constituents whom Rep. Schrader represents, should encourage his support of HR 676. We should let him know his support of HR 676 is in the best interests of all of us. Nationwide single-payer health care is good for the country, good for Oregon and good for everyone in Congressional District 5.
Martin Donohoe, MD, is a resident of Lake Oswego.