MEEKS: I like Oregon’s spirit

November 20, 2013 

Our state could learn a few lessons from Oregon. This state decided to embrace the Affordable Care Act and expand its Medicaid program so that its residents who did not have health care coverage could receive it. The state set up its plan and began by contacting all of the folks who received food stamps. They informed them of their eligibility and sent them application forms in the mail. The response was quite good. Though there are challenges being caused by the shifting that is mandated for some of its residents who have plans that have to be replaced as well as folks who are changing from plans that are held by employers, they are focused upon getting their residents insured.

The attitude that Oregon is exhibiting is one that would be well for Georgia and many other states to consider. We all know that the Affordable Care Act is not without its problems. It is not the perfect solution to the problem that we have as a nation in terms of making sure all of our citizens have access to health care coverage. But it starts us on the road to major change which has been needed for decades.

We need to have reasonably priced health care coverage available for every citizen in this country as many other industrialized nations have managed to do. We need to have a shift in our attitudes so that more of us who have insurance would find it indefensible to have others without insurance. We need to put a stop to the great thread of classism that is so alive and well in our country, especially when it comes to the notion of full and affordable health care coverage for everyone. So many of the opposing voices are made up of people who have very good coverage, such as the financially successful and elected officials. All of the folks who are opposed to people who have less money being given a path to health care coverage should be ashamed of themselves.

As I have listened to the conversations about the failed rollout of the Affordable Care Act, it is interesting to note the negativity toward it even from some surprising voices. It is hard to tell if we have been so accustomed to negativity that it is difficult to be open to the positive or if we are simply trying to develop a national grumbling class.

It seems that many of the technical problems could have been avoided and should have been fixed before Oct. 1, but they weren’t. Therefore, it makes sense to work to see how everybody concerned can help in solving the problem instead of continuing to engage in a litany about how terrible it is.

Oregon is such a good example for the country. It was refreshing to listen to Gov. John Kitzhaber speak about his commitment to getting its residents insured and learn more about his overall intention to improve the health care system there.

Every elected official in the country should be focused upon the general welfare of all of the people and not some of the people. I continue to believe that we who care about the common good have to continue to make it clear that nothing less is acceptable. Of course the good news is that the Affordable Care Act is a law and while it will be tweaked in the years to come, we will not go back to where we were. There was opposition to the system of Social Security -- once upon a time.

Human beings don’t care for change, but having a loud voice against change does little if other voices speak as well. Silence is not an option in a democracy; we have to be willing to speak for ourselves and perhaps others who cannot speak or do not think they can speak.

This column by Catherine Meeks, Ph.D., appears twice monthly. Meeks is also a contributing writer for the Huffington Post. Email her at

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