Hi Oregon Public Broadcasting Management Et. Al.:

The Oregon legislature has deliberately denied the citizens of Oregon the opportunity to discuss and debate the merits of a single payer health care model, such as the Oregon Community Health Care Bill, versus the despised, failed, for-profit private health insurance industry system as competing choices to resolve Oregon moral and economic health care crisis. The citizens of Oregon need Oregon Pubic Broadcasting to right this wrong.

The Oregon legislature is completely under the control of the despised, failed, for-profit private health insurance industry to such a degree that not a single member, including the governor, has the courage to challenge their masters and allow much less demand that the very IDEA of a single payer type solution to Oregon's moral and economic health care crisis should be placed on the public table for consideration and debate. The citizens of Oregon need Oregon Pubic Broadcasting to right this wrong.

Broadcasting Bill Moyers Journal is a tribute to OPB's willingness to present challenging, disruptive, alternative views to the establishment status quo. If Bill Moyers was doing his program about Oregon he would most certainly tackle this story. OPB should do no less.

Moyer's guests this week, although speaking about the Washington press corps, nevertheless make points particularly relevant to the issue at hand in our state. (http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/02062009/transcript1.html)

JAY ROSEN: Well, what doesn't get considered, Bill, is that there could be anything radically wrong with Washington [Oregon]. That the entire institution [Oregon legislature] could be broken. That there are new rules necessary. That idea, that the institutions of Washington [Oregon] have failed and need to be changed, doesn't really occur to the [Oregon] press, because as Glenn said, they're one of those institutions. And they're one of the ones that failed.

BILL MOYERS: I think you wrote on your blog that Dave Brody from the Christian Broadcasting Network, Pat Robertson's outfit, will one Sunday show up on "Meet the Press." But an Amy Goodman of "Democracy Now" [or any of the signatories of Feb. 8 letter below] will never show up [on any electronic or print media in Oregon] on "Meet the Press." What's behind that phenomenon?

JAY ROSEN: I think part of the reason is that if Amy Goodman [or the signatories of Feb. 8 letter below] came on  "Meet the Press," [any Oregon media outlet] she [they] would say all sorts of things that not only challenge the people on the program, but challenge what they have been saying over the years.

GLENN GREENWALD: I think that's exactly right. It's all about the content of views. Rush Limbaugh can depict himself as being this insurgent outsider. But he supported the wars of the last eight years. He supported the tax policies that Ronald Reagan essentially instituted as conventional wisdom, that we need to lower taxes, reduce government spending. All of the conventional clich├ęs that the media airs frequently, and doesn't need much time in order to explain, are ones that Rush Limbaugh and the furthest fringes of the right essentially embrace.

And so, to include them into our discussion is not very disruptive at all.  Whereas if you had people on from the left who were advocating things like the United States' responsibility for its unpopularity in the world, the fact that we wage wars and bomb other countries and invade and occupy other countries far more than any nation on the planet [would shatter the accepted conversational framework].

To include somebody like that [See signatories of Feb. 8 letter below] would not only threaten the vested interests [legislators, press, private health insurance industry] of everybody who's participating in these conversations, it would disrupt the entire narrative, as Jay said it would. Almost sound foreign, as though these views are un-serious views, don't belong in mainstream, serious shows. Because these views are never heard [See Feb. 8 letter below]. They're stigmatized, they're demonized as being things that don't really deserve a platform. And so, you can't include advocates of these views [in the Oregon mainstream media] in these shows.

JAY ROSEN: ...There's another aspect of politics, which is leadership, action, bringing something new into the world, starting something that didn't exist before. Having an idea nobody had before [Oregon Community Health Care Bill]. Pushing it through [See Feb. 8 letter below].

Journalists, deep down, don't believe that action really works. But the real excitement of democratic politics is that something new can come into the world, because we decided it [See Feb. 8 letter below].

BILL MOYERS: Is there a narrative that you think could be written now that's not being written?

JAY ROSEN: The narrative that we aren't getting is that the political class [congress and the Oregon legislature] cannot solve the problems it created [Oregon's moral and economic health care crisis]. And that some outside force is needed [See signatories of Feb. 8 letter below]. People from outside, ideas [Oregon Community Health Care Bill] from outside, as well as the anger and sort of mobilized - feeling of [Oregonians] Americans themselves.

BILL MOYERS: By your own paradigm, these ideas, as you said earlier in the broadcast, don't get into the [Oregon] Washington mix, because then they're seen as heretical by the establishment.

JAY ROSEN: They have to be forced in. [See Feb. 8 letter below] It's not enough to elect the right people. They have to be forced in from the outside [from Oregon Public Broadcasting and the signatories of the Feb. 8 letter below et. al.]. 

Oregon Public Broadcasting needs to take a lesson from Bill Moyers, Jay Rosen and Glenn Greenwald and broadcast a sustained series of interviews and programs throughtout the legislative session giving more than equal time to those that for four years have been systematically shut out of the legislative health care conversation by the legislature and the press, namely, those Oregonians that support a single payer type system including the Oregon Community Health Care Bill.

There are no other media organizations in Oregon interested, willing or capable of bringing health care reform alternatives, the most important issue to our fellow citizens, to a necessary and vital statewide public conversation. Local broadcast television and radio stations have long since abandoned even a passing glance at anything that even remotely resembles a public policy program. Newspaper owners, publishers and editors statewide, most notably the Oregonian, have avoided alienating their advertisers and their social and economic equals. They party and sit on boards with those lords of the despised, failed, for-profit private health insurance industry. The citizens of Oregon need Oregon Pubic Broadcasting to show the courage of Bill Moyers and tell this story.

OPB did a praiseworthy public service in its effort to call our statewide community together to identify invasive species of plants throughout our state. Thank you. Now its time to turn OPB's attention to a greater public service, the identification of those who oppose our American democratic principle of fair, open and honest debate of IDEAS regarding alternative solutions to public policy matters, in our case, health care reform in Oregon. A failure to aggressively approach this matter will most certainly lead many Oregonians to question OPB's credibility and to a perception of OPB's subservience to the despised, failed, for-profit private health insurance industry.

Immediately below is a letter signed by elected officials from throughout our state that was sent to the Oregon legislative leadership and copied to every legislator. This a a very good place to start your stories on the most important fundamental political issue facing Oregonians. Should we Oregonians support a single payer type model such as the Oregon Community Health Care Bill to address Oregon's moral and economic health care crisis or continue on with the despised, failed, for-profit private health insurance industry model?

It's way past time for all Oregonians to participate in this debate. Please help us have this Oregon community conversation. Thank you.

Richard Ellmyer


February 8, 2009

Dear House Speaker Hunt 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 2007

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 2009 Oregon Legislature]

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.