On May 15th elections for School Boards will be held throughout our state. Successful candidates will be hired by voters to exercise a legal and fiduciary duty to taxpayers to spend large sums of public money in the best interests of the tax paying community. A significant portion of public funds spent by School Boards will be dedicated to public employee health insurance costs. Those payments have a direct connection to the moral and economic health care crisis that affects Oregonians and Oregon's public institutions.

Bobbie Regan, Portland School Board member, voted against the recent contract with the Portland Association of Teachers because it did not include a cap on health care costs. Bobbie Regan is an exemplar of the well meaning but misguided public official. Employer side health care caps are NOT a solution merely a shift of burden sharing to employees. Those who are forced to carry this additional economic weight almost always react by seeking higher wages or other items of value to compensate. It is the most obvious, uncreative and common approach taken by those with the power to negotiate with public employees. It is a failed model.

Our state's moral and economic health care crisis affects Oregonians and Oregon's public institutions, including its public schools. The solution to Oregon's number 1 moral, social, economic and political issue must be found in the Oregon legislature not at the individual school district, city or county level. To that end, I ask every Oregon voter to confront the candidates for School Board (and in the future candidates for every publicly elected office) in your community with the following three questions:

1. The profit oriented private health insurance industry which has failed to deliver affordable health care to Oregonians and Oregon's public institutions must NOT be the model upon which a solution to Oregon's moral and economic health care crisis should be based:

A.  Agree

B.  Disagree

2. Should Oregon elected officials - public employees - voters - taxpayers have equal access to the same level of health care or should we perpetuate a multitiered health insurance class system in Oregon:

A. Equal access to same level of health care

B. Multitiered health insurance class system

3. Would you be willing to add your name to this letter?

A. Yes

B. No

March 12, 2007

Dear House Speaker Merkley and Senate President Courtney:

The current legislative debate over health care reform in our state does not include our view that the profit oriented private health insurance industry must not be the model upon which a solution to Oregon's moral and economic health care crisis should be based and that Oregon elected officials - public employees - voters and taxpayers must have equal access to the same level of health care not a perpetuation of our current multitiered health insurance class system.

We request that you find a place holder bill in each chamber which would substitute in its entirety the language of the Oregon Community Health Care Bill (see attached) so that an alternative choice may be discussed and debated this session. The Oregon Community Health Care Bill is the only current fully formed piece of proposed legislation which supports our vision of health care reform. We would welcome others that also meet our requirements.

Thank you for your attention.


Richard Ellmyer - Oregon Community Health Care Bill author 

Sam Adams - Portland City Council

Jeff Cogen - Multnomah County Commissioner

Edwars "Chip" Enbody - Hubbard City Council

Darrell Flood - Mayor of Lafayette

Bill Hall - Lincoln County Commissioner

Jim Needham - Mollala City Council

Michelle Ripple - Wilsonville City Council

Mary Schamehorn - Mayor of Bandon

Pete Sorenson - Lane County Commissioner

The answers from School Board Candidates now (and answers from future candidates for every publicly elected office later) will tell voters what they need to know about candidates' fundamental views on health care reform and how they might be expected to act upon those opinions if elected.

Richard Ellmyer


Oregon Community Health Care Bill

Whereas every Oregonian should have the right to affordable health care,

Therefore be it resolved that the following revisions are made to the Oregon Health Plan:

1. The Oregon Health Plan shall allow state, county, regional and municipal governments as well as all public educational institutions in the state of Oregon to pay to enroll their employees.

2. Governments and Public Educational Institutions shall pay 80% of the premium paid in 2004 for an individual covered by their previous health insurance providers times the number of individuals covered for the first year of membership. The individual rate shall be determined by dividing the total amount paid for health insurance in 2004 divided by the number of individuals covered in each public entity in 2004. [Total number of employees times 2.5 shall be an acceptable default if precise numbers are unavailable.] The 80% rate shall continue until such time as a government or public educational institution formally requests an increase or decrease in the rate for that entity. A majority of paying member organizations of the Oregon Health Plan shall agree to the proposed increase or decrease before it can become the effective new rate for the requesting jurisdiction. It shall be the goal, over a period of time, to achieve equity of individual payments among all participating organizations.

3. The Oregon Health Plan shall allow any person who has been a registered voter in Oregon for at least one year to pay to become a member. 18 year olds registering for the first time are automatically accepted. All children 17 and under are automatically qualified provided they are the dependents of at least one adult in the household who is a registered member of the Oregon Health Plan. The cost to join will be determined by a sliding scale based on taxable income and number of dependent children 17 and under. 

4. The Oregon Health Plan shall allow Oregon businesses to enroll their employees provided that each employee submitted for enrollment meets the standards for individual enrollment mentioned in section 3 above.

5. The Oregon Health Plan shall not allow smokers to join. This includes government sponsored as well as individual applicants. However, the Oregon Health Plan shall respond to every Oregonian that asks for help to quit smoking. A special non-member category shall be established to support smokers who want to quit. The cost to participate in this program will be determined by a sliding scale based on taxable income. A limited list of medical procedures intended specifically to enable a patient to stop smoking shall be the only medical procedures available to Oregonians who are smokers, that is those who smoke an average of five or more cigarettes per day. Upon certification by a physician that an individual has successfully quit smoking for one year that person may apply for membership in the Oregon Health Plan. Serious penalties shall be imposed upon those who are untruthful about their smoking habits when making application to the Oregon Health Plan or at any time they are a member.

6. The legislature shall budget for 2006 a payment into the Oregon Health Plan fund of $75,000,000 plus the amount contributed in 2004. An additional $5,000,000 shall be added to this budget item each year until the amount equals the total of all payments made by participating members.

7. The legislature shall transfer into the Oregon Health Plan fund all revenues in excess of the 2% state revenue forecast thereby eliminating the so called Oregon kicker.

8. The Oregon Health Plan shall be the exclusive health plan for a) The governor and every employee in the executive branch of state government under his authority, b) Every employee of the judicial branch of state government c) Every member of the state legislature and all of their staffs.

9. Allowing for procedures specific to male and female anatomies, everyone enrolled shall have exactly the same benefits. No exceptions.

10. Payments by governments and individuals into the Oregon Health Plan shall remain in an Oregon Health Plan account which shall be the source of payments to physicians, hospitals etc. for allowable procedures.

11. Oregon Health Plan financial managers may only invest in low risk financial instruments with a prudent amount of available capital. All investments shall be made only in Oregon.

12. The Oregon Health Plan may be administered by contract with a private business or by a state government agency depending on which is deemed more likely to deliver the most cost effective high quality service to Oregonians.

13. Every two years the number of procedures covered by the Oregon Health Plan shall be reevaluated and shall include more or fewer procedures from the existing list as determined by the amount of money available in the Oregon Health Plan fund to pay for them. It is the goal of the Oregon Health Plan to annually spend on benefits what it annually receives in revenues.

14. Mental health, dental, optometrical, chiropractic and acupuncture shall be included in potential procedures of the Oregon Health Plan especially those of a preventative nature.

15. Every five years the list and rankings of procedures shall be reevaluated.

16. Every listed procedure shall have a capped price. Members may seek medical care from any licensed health care provider in the United States of America. Members who choose health care providers that charge less than the capped price for any procedure shall receive a credit toward their health plan premium valued at the difference. Members choosing health care providers charging more than the capped price must make up the difference themselves. Every bill sent to the Oregon Health Plan for payment must be signed by the member involved in the medical procedure appearing on the invoice before payment can be made.

17. Health care providers licensed by the state of Oregon shall accept Oregon Health Plan patients for approved procedures.

18. Patients that choose to participate shall have the opportunity to critique the care given by their health care providers directly into an online database. 10% of the health care providers with the highest patient satisfaction ratings per year will receive a $10,000 cash incentive bonus. A minimum number of 300 votes or 60% of a health care provider's patients will be required to qualify. 

19. No member of the Oregon Health Plan may sue a health care provider for malpractice of a procedure allowed under the Oregon Health Plan without the express approval of five members of a nine member committee established for the specific purpose of determining the legitimacy or frivolousness of the proposed legal action. That committee shall be comprised of five permanent members serving four year terms namely, two retired judges, two retired physicians and the governor. The remaining four shall be chosen at random from the Oregon legislature each quarter prior to that quarter's meeting.