The Doctor in the Senate

Ashland's Daily Tidings has a long feature on State Senator Alan Bates who, along with Ben Westlund, is pushing for comprehensive health care reform. 

The call ends and Bates lets out a deep sigh. The 61-year-old Democrat seems eager to set budget matters out of his mind, if only for a moment, and talk instead about his passion: health care.

He recited a litany of grim statistics: More than 650,000 Oregonians lack health insurance, and the number of uninsured is increasing each month. Health care costs have risen 73 percent in the last six years. The United States spends twice as much as the rest of the world on health care and people in other industrialized nations are still healthier than Americans are.

"This is a moral crisis we're in," said Bates, a family physician and former chief of medicine at Rogue Valley and Providence medical centers. "What we're trying to do is give everyone access to health care and bring the costs of health care down."

It wouldn't be the first time Bates led statewide reform on health care.  Almost twenty years ago, Governor Goldschmidt appointed him to the commission that developed the Oregon Health Plan.  The challenges facing health care reform are manifold, but the legislature is fortunate to have somone with his level of public policy and medical experience.


  • randy davis (unverified)

    In the fall of '74 as a young teenager I visited the US Capitol. I listened as a much younger Sen Ted Kennedy spoke on the need for universal health coverage.

    32 years later at the donkey stable, I found myself making calls promising voters who vote Democratic, "good jobs, quality schools, affordable heath care, and safe communities." The Democrats must deliver on health care, period. Whatever plan they come up with must be affordable and universal. Other than the war, no single issue generated as much concern with voters I called as the health care crises.

  • IndependentAndy (unverified)

    I met Bates once...he's a bit impertinent, but very genuine...a Democrat I could vote for. He best asset is his penchant for common sense approaches, rather than trying to shove idiology down someone else's throat like so many on the far left and far right. Bates seems very thoughtful, not one to jump into things without considering the consequences.

    Speaking of bad consequences, has anyone taken a look at HB 2996? This bill has a hearing on Thursday - it's aim appears to be to force private schools to hire licensed teachers, but there is a clause in the bill that would force EVERYONE who teaches children ages K-12 and is paid for it to be a licensed teacher. That means if you are a piano teacher after school, you have to have a teaching license. If you are a 4-H agent who works with kids, you have to have a teachers license. If your employer pays you for a day at work that you spend volunteering in a kids classroom, you must have a teachers license. If you make a little extra money on the side offering tennis lessons, you have to have a teachers license...or be in violation of this proposed statute. Talk about overkill. I was hoping the Democrats would avoid stupid bills like this. How arrogant can the teachers unions get?

    If you Ds elected more people like Bates, maybe we wouldn't have bills like this one.

  • Richard Ellmyer (unverified)

    Health Care Update? Not Really.

    Update: Six Key Issues And Where They Stand - HEALTH CARE Sunday, April 01, 2007 - By Don Colburn - Oregonian Reporter Still to do: A Senate committee is drafting a bill blending four proposals for health coverage of all Oregonians. That goal has bipartisan support, though lawmakers disagree on the method. ["Disagree on the method." Now there is a grand understatement revealing nothing.]

    Hi Don: Is the goal to have only one bill or to have "health coverage", whatever that means, of all Oregonians? I interpret "all Oregonians" to mean universal health care. My last head count showed no Republican support for such an idea. Does your math show something different? Can you name a single Republican, publicly elected or party official, that supports universal health care in Oregon? Can you name a single Democrat who was elected to the legislature by publicly advocating the raising of somebody's taxes to pay for universal health care?

    There has been no mention, by legislators or reporters involved in the health coverage issue, of how any of these proposals will affect the health care costs of PUBLIC INSTITUTIONS. There also has been NO debate, NOR reporting, of the fact that these senate (and the house?) health care reform proposals are based on the FAILED PRIVATE HEALTH INSURANCE INDUSTRY MODEL and they continue to perpetuate a multitiered health insurance CLASS SYSTEM.

    Have you reported on how many citizens have testified before the senate committee that agreed to the moral correctness and politically defensible fairness of a plan where public employees benefit from the sumptuous taxpayer financied $1,000/month health care premiums and those Oregonian taxpayers that may be added by the health care reform proposals would be at the bottom end in the $100/month health insurance class? Besides the Democratic economic stake holders protecting their own turf, who's buying this plan which still has no funding mechanism? Who pays? Who gets?

    Oh, let's not forget that the request by nine enlightened and courageous elected city and county officials who asked the Democratic House and Senate leadership to include the Oregon Community Health Care Bill in the health care debate (see below) because it provided the only alternative challenge of ideas to those that were permitted by the Democratic establishment, was ignored with disrespect. Not a good sign of where they - the legislature - and we - the Oregonian voter, taxpayer and citizen - stand.

    Richard Ellmyer Oregon Community Health Care Bill author and project champion President, MacSolutions Inc. - A Macintosh computer consulting business providing web hosting for artists and very small businesses. Writer/Publisher - Oregon Health Watcher commentary - Published on the Internet and distributed to 17,000 readers interested in public health care policy in Oregon.


    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.

    Sincerely, 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

  • (Show?)

    Well Richard,

    Perhaps there's a point that you and your cosigners missed but Senator Bates "gets". As an actual legislator, you must focus on the doable over the ideal.

    The original Bates-Westlund effort was carefully crafted over the course of several months of hearings and consultation with stakeholders, to get to a bill that had some chance of success. Holding out for the True Believer perfect world solution only relegates your position to irrelevance.

    <h2>I say this as a citizen who has often butted heads with Senator Bates on a variety of issues, and I am currently in sharp disagreement with him on other bills that he supports in this session. These ongoing differences with the senator don't diminish my support for his efforts on health care one bit.</h2>
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