45,000 Americans die every year for lack of health insurance. Oregon's per capita portion is about 450 dead. Recently my neighbor was a statistic. The medical-industrial complex of corporations and their employees in the congress and the Oregon legislature are responsible for these deaths. They are killing us.

Nurses do the heavy lifting in the medical world. The Oregon Nurses Association and the Oregon Federation of Nurses & Health Professionals have both voted for a resolution supporting a Single Payer Solution to America's/Oregon's moral and economic health care crisis. A Single Payer system puts the private health insurance industry OUT OF BUSINESS. This is tantamount to a declaration of war. The Oregon Nurses Association and the Oregon Federation of Nurses & Health Professionals are trying to stop the dying and the terror caused by the current for-profit private health insurance industry and their puppets in public office. They deserve a great deal of credit.

However, NOT all nurses are members of nor do they support the Oregon Nurses Association and the Oregon Federation of Nurses & Health Professionals' resolutions supporting a Single Payer Solution to America's/Oregon's moral and economic health care crisis.

Politically Connected Nurses That Don't Support Single Payer Are News

Kevin Mannix was an Oregon legislator and candidate for governor, congress and attorney general. Mannix often spoke about and brought the views of his wife Susanna Mannix, a registered nurse at Salem Hospital, into his campaign speeches. Interestingly, Mannix has returned to the public arena with an effort to challenge the appointment of Margaret Carter to a lucrative job in state government. Carter, who held the senate seat recently given to Chip Shields, was known as "Margaret Who?" to many in her district and in Salem because of her notorious inaccessibility. Carter opposed Single Payer.

It is a very good bet that registered nurse Susanna Mannix does not support the ONA's and OFNHP's resolutions in favor of Single Payer. If this is not the case we'd like to hear from Susanna to set the record straight.

Jeff Merkley opposed Single Payer when he was Speaker of the Oregon House and continues to oppose Single Payer as a U. S. Senator from Oregon. Merkley not only invoked the name of his wife, Mary Sorteberg - a practicing nurse - during his senate campaign she actually made campaign commercials for him. I received many emails from nurse Mary Sorteberg asking me to contribute to her husband's campaign. I frequently replied asking why she and her husband opposed Single Payer and why Jeff didn't have the courtesy to respond to a letter signed by many elected officials asking him to include Single Payer in the legislative debate on health care reform (see below). I Never got an answer from nurse Sorteberg nor her candidate husband Jeff Merkley.

Merkley's totally disingenuous campaign promise to "guarantee every American universal, affordable, comprehensive, portable, high-quality health coverage that is as good or better than Members of Congress have today" CANNOT be achieved without Single Payer - which he opposes.

It is a very good bet that practicing nurse Mary Sorteberg does not support the ONA's and OFNHP's resolutions in favor of Single Payer. If this is not the case we'd like to hear from Mary to set the record straight.

Chip Shields opposed Single Payer when he was a state representative and continues to oppose Single Payer as a newly appointed state senator. Unlike Mannix and Merkley, in the recent contest for appointment to state senator - of which I was a qualified competitor, Chip Shields never mentioned the health care views of his wife Shelda Holmes - a family nurse practitioner - his employment in a health care business owned by his wife, nor his disgraceful record on the most important subject on the public agenda today, health care reform. What accounts for such obfuscative indeed secretive behavior?

Some years ago the Portland Sentinel made a simultaneous endorsement of both House candidate Chip Shields and Hands on Medicine, a business owned by his wife and employer Shelda Holmes, thereby making the obvious connection.

Chip Shields is employed in a business that is directly connected to and paid by the health insurance industry. To publicly support the Single Payer resolutions endorsed by the Oregon Nurses Association and the Oregon Federation of Nurses & Health Professionals and many others (see list below) is to tell those that pay the bills at Hands on Medicine that you want to put them out of business.

Shields is so enmeshed in his wife's health care business that constituents, regardless of the timeliness or urgency of their messages must wait two months for an audience. It is very easy to determine Chip Shields' loyalties and priorities. If your wife's business, your salary and health care benefits depended upon keeping good relations with the health insurance industry whose interests would come first?

Hands on Medicine may indeed provide excellent health care for its patients. That was never the issue. We did not support a boycott of grapes because the fruit was rotten. We supported a boycott of grapes because the growers politics and policies were bad. If you want change then you don't patronize products, services, businesses and candidates for public office that are hostile to your interests. It is a time honored American tradition.

The Oregon Nurses Association and the Oregon Federation of Nurses & Health Professionals report that Shelda Holmes is not a member of either union. The ONA has further written that Shelda Holmes is welcome to join at any time and that they have no evidence that Shelda Holmes supports their resolution in support of a Single Payer solution to Oregon's/America's moral and economic health care crisis.

The annual per capita portion of deaths due to lack of health insurance in my and Chip Shields' senate district is 15. For which he is partially responsible. The ONLY way to reduce that number to zero is with a Single Payer health care system. Before a crowd of 55,000 people in Portland a few years ago, former presidential candidate and U.S. senator John Kerry proposed a health care plan that provided equal access to the same level of health care for politicians, public employees and every citizen. That unassailable idea is best realized with a Single Payer health care system.

There Is No More Effective Lobbyist Than The Spouse Of An Elected Official

As wives and professional nurses there is no doubt that Susanna Mannix and Mary Sorteberg have a significant amount of influence on their husbands' views and actions with regard to health care. It is also indisputable that Shelda Holmes has even more influence on her husband because she is also his employer and they both work in the health care industry. There is no evidence that any of these individual political couples have differing views on health care policy between husband and wife. 

Single Payer Resolutions Versus Tribal, Personal And Political Connections

Some of the groups that have endorsed Single Payer resolutions have shown a reluctance to ostracize or even criticize anyone, including some of their own recalcitrant members, for opposing the organization's support for Single Payer. This is both counterproductive to their goals and disturbing. Endorsing a Single Payer resolution is not for the conflict averse, either individuals or groups. If you start making exceptions for those people you like but who don't support your Single Payer resolutions then where does it stop? How serious should the public take a group's commitments to Single Payer if it is afraid to speak out against all who are its political and policy adversaries?

Here is an example. If nurses' organizations won't hold those close to political power and decision making like Susanna Mannix, Mary Sorteberg and Shelda Holmes up to public scrutiny regarding their views on Single Payer then how can they challenge Sara Palin, Mitch McConnell and Rush Limbaugh with any force or credibility?

If You Cannot Identify Your Enemy You Cannot Win The War

Richard Ellmyer


The following groups are on the public record as supporting a Single Payer Solution to America's/Oregon's moral and economic health care crisis. They do not necessarily share the other views expressed in this message:


AFSCME District Council 75

Amalgamated Transit Union Local 757

American Federation of Government Employees Local 2157

American Federation of Teachers Local 5017

City of Portland

Democratic Party of Lane County

Freedom Socialist Party

International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees

Lane County Commission

Mad As Hell Doctors

Multnomah County Commission

Oregon Academy of Family Physicians

Oregon Education Association

Oregon Federation of Nurses & Health Professionals

Oregon Nurses Association

Oregon Teamsters Local 206

Pacific Green Party of Oregon

Painters Local 10

State Council of Machinists (IAM)


February 8, 2009 [This message was also sent in 2007. My single payer Oregon Community Health Care Bill was written in November 2004.]

Dear House Speaker Hunt (Merkley) and Senate President Courtney Et. Al.:

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 2004

Sam Adams - Portland City Council 2007

Jeff Cogen - Multnomah County Commissioner 2007

Edwars "Chip" Enbody - Hubbard City Council 2007

Darrell Flood - Mayor of Lafayette 2007

Bill Hall - Lincoln County Commissioner 2007

Jim Needham - Mollala City Council 2007

Michelle Ripple - Wilsonville City Council 2007

Mary Schamehorn - Mayor of Bandon 2007

Pete Sorenson - Lane County Commissioner 2007

John Frohnmayer - Former candidate for US Senate 2008

Tim Grimes - Staton City Council 2008

David P. Trott - Mayor City of Umatilla 2008

Bill Dwyer - Lane County Commissioner 2008

Dan K. Cummings - Ontario City Council President 2008

Mark Camra - Toledo City Councilor 2009

Don Porter - Mayor of Long Creek 2009

Thomas Bradley - Long Creek City Council 2009

Fred Drake - Long Creek City Council 2009

Alvin Hunt - Long Creek City Council 2009

[Copies of this letter were sent to all members of the 2007 and 2009 Oregon Legislatures.]