Senate '08: Debate tonight in Pendleton

Tonight, the first debate between Democratic candidates for the US Senate will take place in Pendleton. The debate will include four candidates. From the O:

For the two main contenders, Oregon House Speaker Jeff Merkley and Portland political activist Steve Novick, the debate offers a chance to highlight policy and style differences in a race that has yet to grab much public attention.

For two lesser-known candidates, Eugene real estate broker Candy Neville and retired mental health counselor David Loera of Salem, it's a chance to let voters know that Merkley and Novick aren't the only candidates.

The O previewed the debate:

Novick plans an aggressive strategy, saying he'll spend plenty of time pointing out why Smith should be replaced, but also why he's better suited for the job than Merkley. ... "This is a time for candor, not caution," Novick said. "I see Jeff Merkley running a very cautious campaign."

Merkley shrugged off the comment.

"Steve's style in this campaign is to take swipes at me," he said. "And my style is to say he's a very good man. I'm not going to respond to his comment."

Merkley said he'll continue that strategy at Tuesday's debate. He said he won't waste time drawing distinctions between himself and other Democrats in the race. "I spend all my time talking about Smith." ...

"The strongest thing I hope to stress is that I am weary of war, waste and want," Neville said. She is running almost exclusively as an anti-war candidate, saying that an end to fighting in Iraq would saves lives and allow the federal government to pump more money into schools and health care programs. ...

Loera also said he is running on an anti-war platform, but as a pro-immigration candidate as well. He said it's a "myth" that illegal immigrants are a drain on U.S. resources. "They are an intertwined part of the economy," he said. "We should leave them alone" and give them a chance to become citizens.

Are you still undecided in the US Senate race? If so, what questions do you hope are asked and answered?

Discuss.

  • RuMo (unverified)
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    "Steve's style in this campaign is to take swipes at me," he said. "And my style is to say he's a very good man. I'm not going to respond to his comment."

    No! Your style is to keep your hands clean while surrogates are given the green light to make baseless smears against Novick. Teddy K's endorsement isn't the only thing you and HRC have in common...

  • backbeat12 (unverified)
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    Can we watch/listen to this debate? I'm hoping one of these two will be stronger that John Frohnmayer, who I think has far more gravitas and experience for the job. He also thinks health care for all is in The Constitution.

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    I sent the following questions to the East Oregonian editors:

    Please ask the Democratic candidates for US Senate the following set of questions:

    Do you think China will continue to have a very high rate of economic growth for the next 30 years? Do you think China could have an economy twice the size of the US economy in the year 2040?

    What do you think this economic growth in China means for us in Oregon? For our economy? For our national security?

    What should we in Oregon do in response to this economic growth in China?

    Currently, less than 1% of our public school students study Mandarin. Do you think Oregon should have statewide programs to increase that figure to 5% by 2015?

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    BB -- So far, I haven't found an online source for audio or video. I'm hopeful that someone will tape it and send it to us for publication here.

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    as far a I know from the novick campaign, no audio or video were scheduled live. Somebody may well be taping it, though.

    To the article: is it me, or did Merkley distinguish their campaigns and then say he doesn't make distinctions between the campaigns?

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    Posted by: torridjoe | Jan 22, 2008 3:18:14 PM as far a I know from the novick campaign, no audio or video were scheduled live. Somebody may well be taping it, though. To the article: is it me...

    It's just you Mark.

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    so "he takes swipes at me, I don't take swipes at him" is not a distinction between the campaigns?

  • Jack Murray (unverified)
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    torridjoe: If you look at the statement carefully (ie, actually read it), you'll see he was referring to today's debate:

    Merkley said he'll continue that strategy at Tuesday's debate. He said he won't waste time drawing distinctions between himself and other Democrats in the race. "I spend all my time talking about Smith."

    To your credit, you're living up to the Novick campaign's modus operandi of swiping at Merkley.

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    "Drawing distinctions" is a polite euphemism for negative campaigning, which Mr. Merkley hasn't engaged in. Pointing out that Mr. Novick has, isn't an attack. It's just an accurate description.

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    RuMo:

    In last night's debate both HRC and Obama traded quite a few jabs. We'll have to see who will go negative tonight to see who most resembles HRC. Personally, I hope none of the candidates go negative, I hope they stick to the issues. When will candidates learn that going negative only serves to turn voters off?

  • James X. (unverified)
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    I think TJ's right, it was a distinction. I chuckled. ("Won't draw distinctions? What was that last paragraph again?") But to be fair, the "won't draw distinctions" part isn't in quotes.

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    Well, as we all know, the world is divided into two kinds of people, those who divide the world into two kinds of people, and those who don't.

    "Things are more the way they are today than they have ever been before." -- Dwight D. Eisenhower

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    Posted by: Chris Lowe | Jan 22, 2008 4:42:12 PM Well, as we all know, the world is divided into two kinds of people, those who divide the world into two kinds of people, and those who don't.

    That's so true. Not only that, almost 89.74% of statistics are simply made up.

    And also, 50% of all people are below average.

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    Posted by: Sarah Lane | Jan 22, 2008 3:37:01 PM

    They did learn that. A long time ago. Some just never catch on.

    One remark that has stuck with me was something Congressman Wu told me on election night 2004 (long before I interned with him). He had just beaten Goli Ameri after her poll numbers plummeted when she went negative in response to a story in the O. As it turned out, the facts in the story were really mucked up and none of the parties involved would comment. So Ameri took it and ran with it, and Congressman Wu told me that night, after he had won, that he "knew Oregonians would not respond to mudslinging. I took the high road, and I'm glad to see that Oregonians proved me right."

    That's an exact quote, and I'll never forget it. He's exactly right.

  • Oregon Progressive (unverified)
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    No, not undecided. Jeff Merkley!

  • LT (unverified)
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    While I was making dinner I saw Ron Wyden on the subject of a stimulus package speaking at a hearing saying that the proposed rebates are like putting a Band Aid on arterial bleeding.

    We have 2 very intelligent Democrats running in the US Senate primary. So why do we never hear great soundbites like that? (And don't be like the GOP and blame "the media" at a time when candidates have their own websites, along with all the blogs that exist).

  • Oregon Progressive (unverified)
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    Teddy K's endorsement isn't the only thing you and HRC have in common...

    What an interesting and seemingly quixotic tactic to take on the most widely read blog in Oregon by Democrats/Liberals.

    According to the latest polls (01/18/08) Governor Kulongoski has higher approval ratings among both Democrats and among Liberals than either Senator Smith or Senator Wyden. All three of whom have won multiple times at the state-wide level.

  • LT (unverified)
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    For those interested in actual substance, I just went to the E. Oregonian website. This is what they said about reporting the meat of the debate:

    http://www.eastoregonian.com/main.asp?FromHome=1&TypeID=1&ArticleID=72153&SectionID=13&SubSectionID=48

    From the debate Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate answered questions from panel members and the community Tuesday evening. Their video responses will be updated as they become available.

    Responses This section will be updated late Tuesday evening.

  • Hawthorne (unverified)
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    http://www.ridenbaugh.com/index.php/2008/01/22/liveblogging-senate-pendleton-debate/

    Ridenbaugh is live blogging...

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    Ridenbaugh Press has a good post on it too. Randy Stapilus more or less live-blogged it.

    Partisans hoping for ammo will be disappointed. Randy's point about Candy Neville and Eugene Dems is on the money. I felt the same after watching her speak at the much ballyhooed PDA meeting Saturday night.

  • LT (unverified)
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    Thanks, Kevin. This is interesting:

    "Asked about the president's suggestion for a tax rebate to stimulate the economy, Novick said he might support it if it targeted low-income people, because they would be more likely to spend it. Merkley said he might support it if it targeted the middle class. "

    Does that mean Novick is more in favor of rebates going to min. wage workers, retail workers, people working multiple part time jobs because they can't find one full time job? Where does Steve or Jeff stand on Wyden's remark that rebates might be just a Band Aid on a bleeding artery"? When I called Gordon Smith's local office today, the woman there told me rebates were only one of many ideas being considered.

    If that is what Steve means by the statement at the end of his ad (which I saw on TV tonight) about standing up for the little guy, he needs to concentrate on making that point. Even if he lined up every endorsement available but the general public didn't understand his proposals for solving problems, he would face an uphill battle.

    One more thing. I have said this before and I will say it again. If 2 people interested in politics are talking and one says to the other "I liked-------until I saw him at a political event where he........"(or she, if it were someone like Hillary Clinton going too far criticizing Obama, for instance), no ads, no endorsements, no campaign tactics short of the candidate doing something else which makes up for what offended that person will gain that person's vote. As a new friend said to me in an email recently, "good ole talking with friends is usually the best source". The same goes for "I was going to vote for my old friend, but the newer candidate did a better job of answering my question".

    I'm glad we have actual words from candidates finally instead of just bloggers writing their own opinions.

  • Richard Ellmyer (unverified)
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    In November 2008 Oregon voters will face the following choices: Frohnmayer or Merkley or Smith and the Oregon Community Health Care Bill or SB329 or the status quo of Oregon's moral and economic health care crisis. Below are two Oregon Health Watcher commentaries that illuminate the issue. When you craft your questions on health care please: 1. Challenge each candidate to respond to this letter (mentioned below) and comment upon Jeff Merkley's undemocratic behavior in disrespectfully dismissing the honorable and legitimate concerns of elected officials who represent nearly a million Oregonians.

    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

    1. Challenge each candidate to discuss, debate and defend their federal and state health care proposals against John Frohnmayer's support for a single payer solution at the national level and support for the Oregon Community Health Care Bill at the state level (see Frohnmayer press conference statement below).

    Thank you. Good luck and good health.

    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 (http://www.goodgrowthnw.org/health.html) and distributed to 15,000 readers interested in public health care policy in Oregon. To Subscribe: [email protected]

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    From:     Richard Ellmymer
    Subject:    Frohnmayer Supports Oregon Community Health Care Bill
    Date:   December 4, 2007 9:27:39 AM PST
    To:       Oregon Health Watchers
    

    Health Care Reform Is The Most Important Issue In Every Race For Public Office In Our State Of Oregon For The Foreseeable Future

    John Frohnmayer, candidate for United States Senate, is supporting the Oregon Community Health Care Bill in Oregon and a single payer system at the federal level. These two compatible and complimentary positions on health care reform set John Frohnmayer above all of his competitors. Both of these approaches to health care reform reject the failed private health insurance industry as a model for the future. Despite the fact that a majority of Oregonians would agree that the private health insurance industry has failed and will continue to fail to solve Oregon's moral and economic health care crisis, it still takes an enormous amount of courage for John Frohnmayer to stand up for this kind of fundamental change and speak truth to power.

    The private health insurance industry was not brought over on the Mayflower, nor is it to be found in the Constitution of the United States of America, nor the Oregon Constitution, nor the Old Testament. The private health insurance industry is NOT a sacred institution.

    Within the next 20 months, before the end of the next legislative session, every candidate for public office, every elected official and every voter will have to make a choice about the fundamental direction of health care reform in our state.

    Choice #1. Support the Oregon Community Health Care Bill The Oregon Community Health Care Bill is the solution to Oregon's moral and economic health care crisis because it: A. Is the most market driven health care plan in America. B. Removes the burden from businesses of providing health care and places it on the state of Oregon. C. Reduces health care costs to public institutions in Oregon by 20%. D. Provides actual health care not just health insurance. E. Eliminates the term, "preexisting condition." If the procedure is covered you're covered. F. Provides affordable health care - on a sliding scale according to income - as good as that received by any public employee in Oregon to anyone willing to make a commitment to Oregon for one year as a registered voter.

    Setting the stage for Choices 2 & 3

    Medical Miranda Warnings Now Required Anything you say or don't say to your doctor can and will be held against you by the private health insurance industry in a court of law to prevent you from collecting previously approved benefits.

    The private health insurance industry is in the business of making a PROFIT. It is NOT in the business of providing health care to Oregonians and Americans.

    We all know a million horror stories about our dysfunctional multitiered private health insurance class system. Here is one that pretty much sums up the for profit private health insurance industry culture.

    The Health Net Insurance Company Was Fined A Million Dollars By California For Tying Bonuses To Patient Policy Cancellations

    Health insurer tied bonuses to dropping sick policy holder By Lisa Girion, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer November 9, 2007 http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-insure9nov09,0,4409342.story?coll=la-home-center

    One of the state's largest health insurers set goals and paid bonuses based in part on how many individual policyholders were dropped and how much money was saved.

    Woodland Hills-based Health Net Inc. avoided paying $35.5 million in medical expenses by rescinding about 1,600 policies between 2000 and 2006. During that period, it paid its senior analyst in charge of cancellations more than $20,000 in bonuses based in part on her meeting or exceeding annual targets for revoking policies, documents disclosed Thursday showed.

    The revelation that the health plan had cancellation goals and bonuses comes amid a storm of controversy over the industry-wide but long-hidden practice of rescinding coverage after expensive medical treatments have been authorized.

    These cancellations have been the recent focus of intense scrutiny by lawmakers, state regulators and consumer advocates. Although these "rescissions" are only a small portion of the companies' overall business, they typically leave sick patients with crushing medical bills and no way to obtain needed treatment.

    Woodland Hills Insurer Fined $1 Million by State Posted On: November 16, 2007 by Rice & Bloomfield http://www.losangelesinjurylawyerblog.com/2007/11/woodland_hills_insurer_fined_1.html

    Last Thursday, the state slapped Health Net, Inc. with a $1 Million fine. The insurance company set goals for cancellation on policies and paid bonuses to employees based on how many policies the dropped and how much money that saved the company. While they spend millions of dollars on commercials to make people think their goal is to help, these types of incidents show how insurance companies really work. Unfortunately, trusting your insurance company may be a mistake.

    The fine came after the company mislead state investigators about bonuses paid to employees on more than one occasion. As we have found to be the case on many occasions with insurance companies, what they tell you they are going to do, does not always match what they actually do.

    Basically, when a Health Net insurance employee found people who were sick, and made large claims and cancelled them, Health Net rewarded them. Health Net was able to find the people that needed protection the most, and hurt them. As insurance companies always have an excuse for their conduct, Health Net claimed that the cancellations were necessary root out fraud and keep premiums down. It appears that it did so by committing fraud. The fine is one of the largest in the history of the Department of Managed Care.

    Go to the library or your video store and get Michael Moore's Sicko for an entertainingly unexpected enlightening perspective on this subject. Invite your friends. Make popcorn and talk about it after the closing credits.

    Choice #2. Support Senate Bill 329 - Passed by the 2007 legislature but thankfully unfunded. A. SB329 relies on the failed private health insurance industry model. B. SB329 will cost a Billion Oregon taxpayer dollars. C. SB329 is so complex that its authors couldn't have made it more difficult for voters to understand if they tried. D. SB329 fails to address the skyrocketing and unstoppable increased costs of public employee health care premiums resulting in larger decreases in delivered public services every year. E. SB329 was written without any consideration or discussion of the ideas presented by elected officials in the letter below.

    The official responsible for overseeing the disastrous process that lead to this bill is Speaker of the Oregon House, Jeff Merkley, who demonstrated a disturbingly undemocratic trait he holds in common with Valdimir Putin, Pervez Musharff and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. All of these political leaders claim to uphold the processes of democratic government. But when it comes to allowing the competition of ideas in the public marketplace, which if put on the public table could threaten the cozy relationships these men share with their powerful allies, that competition of alternative thought is not allowed and kept out of sight. Here is the damning evidence condeming candidate for US Senate Jeff Merkley. It is a letter from elected officials who support the Oregon Community Health Care Bill asking the legislative leadership to include the Oregon Community Health Care Bill in discussion and debate early in the legislative session. Speaker Jeff Merkley not only refused to include these ideas in the debate he did not have the courtesy to respond to those who signed the letter. These signers represent nearly a million Oregonians.

    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

    Choice #3. Support the status quo The federal government of the United States of America and the American private health insurance industry have FAILED to provide affordable health care to Oregonians and Oregon's public institutions. As a result of these failures Oregon is facing a moral and economic health care crisis based on the following conditions: 1. Huge numbers of Oregonians have no health insurance. (about 1 million within a year) 2. Huge numbers of Oregonians pay for such costly health insurance that they can afford little or no actual health care. 3. All of Oregon's public institutions are facing skyrocketing and unstoppable increases in health care costs which significantly diminish the quality and quantity of services that need to be provided to the public

    FYI - A Sampling Of Maximum Current Public Employer Contributions To Public Employee Health Insurance Benefits Dollar figures are for individual paychecks per month.

    Multnomah County - $ 1,459 City of Eugene - $ 1,256 Portland Public Schools - $ 1,217 Oregon State University - $1,188 Portland State University - $ 1,129 City of Gresham - $1,120 University of Oregon - $ 1,084 State of Oregon - $ 1,006 Beaverton School District - $ 921 Multnomah County ESD - $ 768 Metro Regional Government - $ 763 Lane ESD - $ 750 City of Portland - $ 555

    A million uninsured Oregon taxpayers and perhaps another million underinsured Oregon taxpayers dutifully send in our tax payments which make it more difficult for us to afford health care. Most public employees are not in the same boat as the rest of us who are actually paying for their luxury liner sized health insurance premiums. How high do these luxurious benefits have to go before we voters and taxpayers say, "Enough. We're mad as hell and we're not going to pay this anymore. We demand health care as good as any public employee."

    Call To Candidates For Public Office Please join the first enlightened candidates for public office in Oregon to step forward this election cycle and demonstrate both good judgement and courage by supporting the Oregon Community Health Care Bill: US Senate candidate John Frohnmayer Portland city council candidate Jeff Bissonnette Portland city council candidate John Branam Portland city commissioner and Portland mayoral candidate Sam Adams. (see letter above)

    Every candidate for public office anywhere in Oregon, school board, ESD board, community college board, city council, county commission and legislature must choose one of the health care reform options mentioned above before the end of the next legislative session in 20 months. I urge you to join those who signed the letter above in support of the Oregon Community Health Care Bill as well as candidates Frohnmayer, Bissonnette and Adams. These candidates deserve your attention and support now and your vote later.

    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 (http://www.goodgrowthnw.org/health.html) and distributed to 16,000 readers interested in public health care policy in Oregon. To Subscribe: [email protected]

    <h6></h6>
    From:     Richard Ellmyer
    Subject:    Frohnmayer Leads Health Care Debate In Oregon And The Nation - Recent Poll Impressive
    Date:   December 19, 2007 9:57:45 AM PST
    To:       Oregon Health Watchers
    

    John Frohnmayer, candidate for US Senate and former head of the National Endowment For The Arts, demonstrated his courage, honesty, intelligence and leadership skills when he announced at a press conference at the state capitol in Salem on December 17 that he supports the Oregon Community Health Care Bill at the state level and a single payer solution at the national level to resolve the moral and economic health care crisis we face in Oregon and America. Bravo and thank you John Frohnmayer.

    You can see the Frohnmayer press conference video here soon: http://www.ivotejohn.com/ You can read his delivered remarks below.

    Poll Shows Frohnmayer In 2nd Place With Upward Momentum A recent scientific telephone poll by Riley Research Associates taken between November 30 and December 12, 2007 was conducted among 401 randomly selected registered likely voters throughout Oregon. A sample of 401 provides accuracy to within +/-4.89% at a 95% level of confidence. The results showed Gordon Smith at (39%), followed by John Frohnmayer (14%) and Jeff Merkley (12%), with many undecided (35%). These very early results are nonetheless quite amazing and impressive considering that the Oregon press corps has barely mentioned John Frohnmayer. As voters, especially those without adequate health care, find out that John Frohnmayer is not only in the race but supports health care reform plans that reject the failed private health insurance industry as a model for our future, Frohnmayer's numbers will continue to rise.

    You can find details of the poll results here: http://www.indparty.com/node/63

    Oregonians registered with any political party or no political party that want serious and meaningful health care reform in Oregon and America should support John Frohnmayer with their money and their time now and, for those citizens that are not disenfranchised and are allowed by the restrictive, undemocratic and self-serving rules of Republican and Democratic legislators, their votes by write in during the May primary election.

    John Frohnmayer can, should and will win the election for US Senator in November 2008.

    Call To Candidates For Public Office Every candidate for public office anywhere in Oregon, school board, ESD board, community college board, city council, county commission and legislature must choose between the Oregon Community Health Care Bill, SB329 or the status quo before the end of the next legislative session in 20 months. Please join the first enlightened candidates for public office in Oregon to step forward this election cycle and demonstrate both good judgement and courage by supporting the Oregon Community Health Care Bill: US Senate candidate John Frohnmayer Portland city council candidate Jeff Bissonnette Portland city council candidate John Branam Portland city commissioner and Portland mayoral candidate Sam Adams.

    All candidates for public office in Oregon that support the Oregon Community Health Care Bill will eventually be mentioned in an edition of Oregon Health Watchers and listed on the Oregon Health Watchers website.

    Call To Voters Every Oregon voter must choose between the Oregon Community Health Care Bill, SB329 or the status quo before the end of the next legislative session in 20 months. I urge you to support candidates Frohnmayer, Bissonnette, Branam, Adams and any others as they are identified that support the Oregon Community Health Care Bill. These candidates deserve your attention and support now and your votes in May and November of 2008.

    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 Watchers - Published on the Internet (http://www.goodgrowthnw.org/health.html) and distributed to 16,000 readers interested in public health care policy in Oregon.

    Note To Readers: This message is sent to you and thousands of others because of a mutual interest in health care policy in Oregon. To unsubscribe from Oregon Health Watchers, E-mail to: [email protected] To subscribe to Oregon Health Watchers, E-mail to: [email protected] These are both automated processes that require confirmation. If you are having a technical problem please send administrative queries to [email protected] Send reader comments to [email protected]

    <hr/>

    PRESS CONFERENCE, REMARKS ON HEALTH CARE COVERAGE December 17, 2007 JOHN FROHNMAYER, Candidate for U.S. Senate 2008

    Dave Flowers owned a Pizzeria. He had 25 employees but couldn’t provide health insurance because he couldn’t afford the premiums. He experienced the health care crisis by living it - a viral infection almost collapsed his heart. While he found insurance for his wife and two children, no insurance was available to him because of his pre-existing condition.  He couldn’t work full time and he was frustrated and scared  -- one major illness or injury away from financial ruin. You know Dave because he is just like your neighbor, your co-worker, maybe yourself.
    
    Germany has had universal health coverage since 1883 - 125 years. Canada has had it for 40 years. We believe in the inalienable right of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and we can’t have life without health.
    
    During this holiday season, we will read some of the most heart wrenching stories, and many of us will offer our help, but individuals cannot help all the 600,000 uninsured Oregonians. This is the United States of America in the 21st century. We must do better.
    
    In 2005, the United States’ largest private health insurer, United Health Group, paid its CEO 122.7 million dollars in salary. Within the last month, California fined Health Net, another major private health provider, one million dollars for wrongfully denying claims that were valid but, in the opinion of the insurer, were going to cost too much. Health Net paid a $20,000 bonus to the employee who unlawfully and immorally denied these claims.
    
    The private insurance model is the wrong model, yet it is favored by Senator Gordon Smith on the federal level and by the Oregon legislature in Senate Bill 329.  I say to you, “No, No, 1,000 times No. That is the wrong model.”
    
    I have been on the opposite side of insurance companies for my entire legal career and I can tell you that the for-profit insurance model is dedicated to accumulating as much as possible and paying as little as possible. That is not what we need for health insurance but that is the very model Jeff Merkley and Gordon Smith favor, and I say. “No.”
    
    I believe that:
    
    1. Any health care delivery system must be not-for-profit and run by the federal government on the national level and the State of Oregon on the local level.
    
    2. Any system must allow the individual to choose his or her doctors and health professionals.
    
    3. The system must increase the number of primary care physicians, pediatricians, and other health care professionals to deliver high-quality health services affordably, efficiently and equitably to the whole population.
    
    4. The system must integrate all health care services and adequately pay for the best medical professionals. Doctors tell me now that they lose money on every Medicare patient. That is not a fair system.
    
    5. Finally, we must emphasize preventive care and promote healthy life styles in nutrition, exercise, check-ups and prenatal care. We must reinstate physical education in our schools along with classes in healthy living. Childhood obesity is an epidemic that will challenge any health care system and must be addressed immediately.
    
    As your Senator, I will work tirelessly for a universal single payer system in the United States. That simply means that we take the health care system out of the hands of for-profit companies that now spend approximately one-third of the total health care costs on administration, salaries and advertising. That’s one-third of 2.2 trillion dollars. We spend twice what Germany, Canada and Australia spend, and we still have 47 million uninsured.
    
    What will universal coverage cost? Less than we’re paying now. Today the average worker pays 24% of the cost of health insurance premiums. A payroll tax on all employers and employees would be far less than that, plus we wouldn’t have to pay deductibles or premiums. Efficiencies in the system would result in a far lower cost to the individual along with the comfort of knowing that when you go to the doctor, you just present your card and you’re covered. Any additional cost could be covered by a one-tenth of one percent tax on stock and bond transfers and repealing the tax cuts for the super rich that the Bush-Cheney administration has embraced.
    
    The grim reality is that Oregonians know that health care costs will continue to rise if we don’t change the private for-profit insurance company system.  I want to distinguish myself from Senator Smith on this issue. In July of 2006, he suggested an incremental, voluntary policy that would give public subsidies to private insurers. Wrong. Wrong. To continue to help big business but give the impression you are doing something by tweaking the status quo is not the leadership Oregon needs.
    
    Now let’s look at the state of Oregon and the work of the 2007 legislature. Its members, led by Jeff Merkley, passed Senate Bill 329. It again uses the discredited, inefficient, and expensive private insurance model. If they had bothered to fund it, it would cost Oregon taxpayers one billion dollars. It is so complex, it requires an accountant, an actuary, and a seer to understand what is intended.
    
    But what is most disturbing about Senate Bill 329 is that while it purports to embrace public input, Speaker Merkley failed even to respond to a letter from elected officials representing over a million Oregonians requesting that the legislature consider the Oregon Community Health Care Bill that is essentially a single payer system on the state level. That March 12, 2007 letter is available for your perusal. Speaker Merkley did not favor these Oregon leaders with a reply, nor did the legislature consider this sensible approach. Likewise, the efforts of the Archimedes Project, led by former Governor John Kitzhaber were disregarded.
    
    What are the problems with Senate Bill 329 beyond its complexity and vagueness? First, we can’t control the cost of private insurance. I support union efforts to cover workers, and yet the cost of private health insurance has so skyrocketed that Multnomah County pays as much as $1,459 per month to many of its employees. We taxpayers can’t afford this, the Counties can’t afford it, and the workers certainly can’t shoulder those costs themselves. The result is more and more employers, both public and private are opting out of insurance. Senate Bill 329 will not fix this.
    
    Senate Bill 329, with its private health insurance model, will not encourage preventive care that we need to promote healthy lives, and pre-existing conditions are left to be negotiated, so thousands can be denied.
    
    We must demand that the Oregon legislature respond to its citizens‘ concerns. Here’s what I implore the Oregon legislature to do:  First, consider the recommendations of the Oregon Community Health Care Plan (the letter that Speaker Merkley refused to acknowledge). It is not based on a private health insurance model - the state would be the administrator; it emphasizes preventive care, it would save all public institutions and government employers 20% per year in premiums; it would provide uniform benefits for both public employees and private citizens, with no pre-existing exclusions. The legislature has an obligation to pursue the best, most efficient model for all Oregonians.
    
    Second, the legislature should in its upcoming February session, amend SB 329 to allow consideration of the proposal of the Mid-Valley Health Advocates from Corvallis. It is the work of tireless advocates for health including many physicians and other health professionals. It, too, proposes a not for profit model.
    
    Solutions to our health crisis are not easy - they are not facile - they are not susceptible to sound bites. But this we know: incremental change is not good enough; tinkering around the edges won’t fix the problem; pandering to big pharmaceuticals and big health care organizations is politics at its worst. We can fix this problem if we are strong, dedicated and courageous enough to do it.
    
    So let us start today to act upon our conviction that all of us deserve the opportunity to be healthy. Let us put people before profit and equity before private advantage. Let us reject spin, deception, and fear mongering. Let us establish the values that we are willing to live by and then act upon our convictions. Health care is our inalienable right.
    
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