April 4, 2008 Volume 109 Number 7

Kitzhaber asks unions to help reform U.S. health care system

Former Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber asked delegates to the Northwest Oregon Labor Council March 24 to get involved with him to change the way health care is delivered in the United States.

“It should be at the top of your agenda in Oregon and nationwide,” said Kitzhaber during a PowerPoint presentation at the labor council’s monthly meeting. The emergency room doctor and two-term governor said the United States currently doesn’t have a health care system, “we have a sick care system.”

The United States, he said, spends twice per capita what other industrialized nations spend, yet it ranks last in patient safety, efficiency and other quality measures.

“We have about 9,000 different billing codes, but not one billing code for ‘cure.’” Kitzhaber said. “There is no financial incentive to keep people healthy.”

Kitzhaber said rapidly rising health care costs are driving the U.S. national debt — which is quickly approaching a staggering $10 trillion.

“Zeroes matter,” he said. “A million seconds ago was last week; a billion seconds ago Richard Nixon was just leaving the White House; a trillion seconds ago was the year 30,000 BC.”

To put that in perspective, Kitzhaber said much attention has been placed on reforming the Social Security system because of its projected $5 trillion trust fund deficit in a few decades. “The real problem,” he said, “is Medicare,” which is projected to have a $67 trillion deficit.

“What kind of world are we leaving our children and grandchildren?” Kitzhaber asked. “Not a very bright one.”

Quoting from The Archimedes Movement, an organization founded to lead the debate in overhauling the nation’s health care system, Kitzhaber wrote:

“We cannot effectively meet the challenges we face unless we find that sense of common purpose and dispel the belief that if we can just elect a new governor, a different Legislature, a different Congress or a new president — all our problems will be resolved. These problems cannot be solved without some risks and sacrifices; which means they will not be solved by relying solely on a political process which is set up to reward people who play it safe — who ask at every decision point ‘which action offers the safest path to retain my position?’ ”

“We’re all trapped in this together,” Kitzhaber told delegates. “The problems we face cannot be solved unless we do it together.”


Home | About

© Oregon Labor Press Publishing Co. Inc.