Former Oregon governor John Kitzhaber's campaign to radically reform health care drew about 200 people to its first meeting in Portland on Sunday.
The effort is a grass roots campaign that aims to gather citizens' ideas on how to create a better health care system and use their activism to pressure politicians to adopt their concept.
The goal, backers said, is not to work within the current system but to design a new one, which provides health care to all Oregonians and uses current funding levels more effectively.
"It's easy to despair at the sheer complexity of our health care system," Kitzhaber said. "This movement is committed to creating an opportunity to replace that resignation with hope."
It's a pie-in-the-sky idea to some, but it has the leadership of two men with proven track records of making the unusual accepted.
Kitzhaber, a two-term governor and former emergency room doctor, created the Oregon Health Plan. The 1994 plan radically changed how Oregon used its federal and state funding to expand health insurance coverage to all Oregonians under the federal poverty level. The plan was scaled back, though, when state legislators decided to close a portion due to state budget problems.
For his new campaign, Kitzhaber has enlisted the help of Joe Trippi, who ran Howard Dean's presidential campaign in 2004 and has been credited with pioneering the campaign's unprecedented Internet-based support.
The Dean campaign was able to raise millions for campaign funding not from a handful of large donors but via thousands of small donations given by individuals over the Internet. Trippi worked on Kitzhaber's 1994 campaign, and said he was excited to help with such an important issue as health care.
The campaign has been named "The Archimedes Movement," after the famous mathematician Archimedes who is known for inventive solutions.
Attendees Sunday, ranging from students to retirees, brainstormed ideas on how to come up with a better health care system and how to get more people involved. Ideas ranged from putting more emphasis on preventive care, such as good nutrition, to getting health insurance companies behind the concept. One attendee had already created an Archimedes Movement site on myspace.com, a popular Web site among young adults.
Kitzhaber announced the concept in January, at the same time he ruled out making another run at the governor's job in Oregon. There's been little marketing of the idea since then but through online registration and word of mouth, the group was able to pack a local meeting hall.
The group plans to continue meeting across Oregon — encouraging individuals to hold their own meetings small and large. Kitzhaber said he's been contacted by individuals inCalifornia,Indiana, Washington, Georgia and Maryland who are interested in following suit.
— The Associated Press