Jim Ellison is no stranger to healthcare issues.
A 27-year career in pharmaceuticals before his retirement in 2002 made health care a frontline issue for Ellison. And the 70-year-old Northwest Portland resident was among a handful of people who got to speak on the topic at the healthcare forum put on last week by U.S. Rep. David Wu (D-Ore.) at Legacy Good Samaritan Hospital. Ellison, who brought some of his medical bills to the meeting, told Wu the government already gets an unreasonable healthcare discount.
A Democrat-turned-Republican who lost a run last year for the state House, Ellison says he and many others like him are concerned about the nation's direction and considers Obama power-hungry. "If it weren't for my wife, I'd probably move out of the country," Ellison told WW when we invited him to explain why he and so many others are descending on town halls like Wu's.
WW: What do you say to people who think you and other protesters are a bunch of nut-job screamers?
Jim Ellison: I think we have the right to voice our opinion in the public forum as long as it's reasonably respectful and civil. I don't think people should bring machetes or pictures of Obama.
What made you attend the town hall?
Obama wants to nationalize health care. He changed the terms. They decided to demonize the insurance companies. The problem is, the government says, "We're going to promise you this and buy your vote."
Some people at the meeting likened Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer's proposal on end-of-life consultation to euthanasia, even though that's incorrect.
It's a proper conversation between patients, families and the doctor. But having a panel determine end-of-life care isn't. One of the things that is evil about government is, they get an idea from a specialist group and they write bad legislation. Then it gets turned over to the regulators, and if the law is open-ended and poorly structured, they get free rein to run around and do what they want.
Can you give another example? That's a big accusation.
It is. Let me think about that. Medicare, Medicaid. Social Security. People used to just work out their bills with their doctor. There's that old joke about the doctor being paid with a chicken. We've moved away from the private-enterprise approach where it's a personal transaction between the provider and the patient. I would like to structure it like auto insurance. You buy whatever you need and get to choose your coverage. If people are in a circumstance where they can't afford insurance, maybe there would be some federal or state assistance.
Do you think there's anything the government is doing right?
Anything the government has stuck their nose into and tried to run, tell me what they did well. There are a lot of unmotivated people. We have a capitalist free-enterprise system that's competitive. That's why private medicine does so well, because doctors have professional pride.
Do you plan to attend another town hall meeting?
I plan to stay active…I had a flashback to the era when I was a Democrat working for the Republicans. The core values of the Democratic party are still there. It's just that a lot of them have been hijacked by special-interest groups. In the case of Obama, it's just abject power. I read a book, Liberal Fascism. One of the things [Hitler] used to gain power was he demonized the Jewish people.
Are you saying part of you agrees with the guy in the town hall who was holding the picture of Obama looking like Hitler?
No, of course not. That's disrespectful to the office of the president. I think he [Obama] adopts or uses strategies you find in those books.