SENATE REPUBLICAN OFFICE
SALEM, Ore.-Two Republican lawmakers outraged over the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) scandal, which involved the planned systemic targeting of HIV patients and the unacceptable targeting of a health care provider named FamilyCare Health, today wrote invitations to BethAnne Darby and Courtney Warner, accomplices in the crafting of the highly controversial plan, to come testify at the upcoming investigative hearings.
“As OHA staff at the time the PR plan was promulgated, it is vital that you appear to answer the committee’s questions on this concerning matter,” wrote state Sens. Kim Thatcher, R-Keizer, and Alan DeBoer, R-Ashland, in their letters. “Oregonians deserve to know whether these startling allegations are in-fact true and, if so, why the PR plan was conceived in the first place.”
Republicans tried to send the letter to Lynne Saxton, who the governor axed over the plan, but no one could provide an email address for her including the governor’s office when initially requested. The Senate watchdog committee’s hearing into OHA over their demonization and targeting of FamilyCare is scheduled for Mon., Sept. 18, at 2:00 PM in HR A at the Oregon Statehouse.
What some may not know is that Darby was once a Big Union lobbyist. And as the agency’s chief spokeswoman, Darby makes a whopping $154,000 a year, compared to $114,000 for her predecessor, Patty Wentz. The average Oregon household income is $54,148, meaning Darby got paid out about 280 percent of the income of the average Oregon household to craft “pr hit jobs.” And that Crowell, is a Democrat political insider and worked for Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., and former Gov. Ted Kulongoski. Instead of getting busted though, Crowell got a big promotion and now works as a “regional solutions” coordinator for Gov. Kate Brown and rakes in about 100 grand a year. People are onto the government.
As interim director Patrick Allen prepares to helm the state agency to stiller seas, a torrent of resignations threatens his success. The agency’s Medicaid director and chief medical officer resigned and now the chief health systems officer and state Medicaid operations director resigned too. Dr. Chauhan Varsha, said about her resignation that there will be a “smooth transition.”
The Lund Report also learned Darby may be leaving the agency as well, but didn’t respond to comment. Darby came on board in Nov. 2015, and worked very closely with Saxton.
According to The Lund Report, Darby also intervened during the legislative session to thwart a bill sponsored by FamilyCare that dealt with rate reimbursement. The highly controversial “communications” plan, was released in response to a public records appeal by the Portland Tribune.
According to the Portland Tribune’s Nick Budnick, the plan was forwarded between OHA’s head of lobbying, Darby, Saxton and others in January as a means to manipulate the 2017 legislative session.
Darby has said that the salacious plan’s “goal will be to create enough information buzz that it causes the Legislature to question what (FamilyCare) is trying to sell.”
Republicans have been working hard to counter the Union-Dem axis of control over the state that has dominated public policy decisions for decades at the detriment of real people.
Thatcher first issued out a statement,”Brown administration sought to exploit HIV patient to aid in takedown of non-profit ‘FamilyCare,'” regarding her concern over OHA planning to systematically target HIV patients in hopes of exploiting one to smear FamilyCare Health, one of the state’s 16 health care providers for the most vulnerable of Oregonians, these type of providers are called coordinated care organizations (CCOs). Following Thatcher’s statement, mass outrage ensued from both sides the aisle and the media, erupting with anger, until Saxton was axed. Saxton has consistently come under fire from both sides of the aisle for perpetual failure and abuse of the state agency.
Thatcher, who sits on the watchdog Senate General Government and Accountability Committee, first advocated to the committee’s chairman state Sen. Chuck Riley, D-Hillsboro, that they should enact a legislative inquiry to gain much-needed information on OHA’s culture of abuse.
“Right now we know what happened – OHA abused taxpayer dollars to create a smear campaign against a health care provider for the most vulnerable and planned to systematically target HIV patients. But what we do not yet know is why this was allowed to happen in the first place. We need to gain a fuller scope of the background on this horrific action. We cannot allow state agencies to use the force of government to target perceived political enemies,” said Thatcher when requesting the legislative inquiries.
“It is chilling how much unchecked power exists within certain powerful agencies in our state government,” said Thatcher when she first learned of OHA’s salacious plan. “When a few people in charge don’t like a person, or a business, or a non-profit, they can use the might of the 800-pound gorilla government to pound them down and ride roughshod over them.”
“It is highly irregular that a state agency would plan to engage in any kind of campaign to attack another entity,” Riley said in a press release announcing his agreement with Thatcher’s request. “It is incumbent upon the Legislature to ensure that state agencies are accountable for their actions. The Committee on General Government and Accountability is the best group to begin delving into this issue and asking questions that Oregonians deserve to have answered.”
OHA refused last month to let the public see the strategic plan developed to attack the health care provider, manipulate the press and manipulate lawmakers. The Brown administration intentionally, and “overwhelmingly,” blacked out 26 pages of emails involving its FamilyCare takedown-plan, blacking out all mention of the hit, citing “pending litigation.”
For follow-up commentary please contact Senate Minority Spokesman Jonathan Lockwood at 971-645-2140.
The Senate Interim Committee on General Government and Accountability requests your appearance as a witness to answer questions regarding the unfolding OHA-FamilyCare matter.
Startling claims have been raised regarding the Oregon Health Authority (OHA)’s treatment of the nonprofit Coordinated Care Organization FamilyCare. OHA reportedly sought to target FamilyCare with a public relations (PR) plan for the purpose of demeaning the low-income health care provider in the eyes of the public. If true, OHA’s actions raise serious concerns which must be addressed.
As OHA staff at the time the PR plan was promulgated, it is vital that you appear to answer the committee’s questions on this concerning matter. Oregonians deserve to know whether these startling allegations are in-fact true and, if so, why the PR plan was conceived in the first place.
The committee expects your presence as well as your openness at the upcoming hearing. The committee will meet at 2:00 PM on Monday September 18, 2017, in HR A at the State Capitol.
THATCHER’S ORIGINAL LETTER REQUESTING INVESTIGATIVE HEARINGS
from the office of
SEN. KIM THATCHER
Sen. Chuck Riley,
Our roles on the Senate General Government and Accountability Committee are ones we both take seriously. We are the watchdog for state agencies. I think we agree that Oregonians deserve to know why the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) maliciously targeted private entities and abused taxpayer dollars. We should take the opportunity to address Oregonians concerns regarding the flailing agency.
This week, following a statement my office released, OHA came under sustained, heavy fire from both sides of the aisle and the media for planning to systematically target HIV patients and FamilyCare Health, one of the state’s 16 coordinated care organizations (CCOs), with a detailed and malicious public relations (PR) plan. We have been told the plan didn’t happen, but can we be sure? How many HIV patients were subjected to OHA’s “PR” plan? What was the director’s involvement in the development of the plan? When was the governor’s office informed of the plan? Who directed the development of the plan? These are serious questions and they are just the beginning.
We know the PR plan’s purpose was to discredit and defame the health care provider in the eyes of the public and to manipulate lawmakers into killing FamilyCare backed legislation to make health care reimbursement rate-setting more transparent. When the PR “hit job” was uncovered, and media reports highlighted the disgraceful use of taxpayer’s dollars and the abuse of government power, OHA Director Lynne Saxton resigned.
The FamilyCare matter was not the first of its kind. Last April, a Linn County Circuit Court judge issued a temporary restraining order blocking OHA, DEQ, and Oregon OSHA from implementing a similar PR plan. In that instance, OHA sought to discredit and defame Entek International, a Lebanon based manufacturer, because Entek – though it was in compliance with all existing environmental standards – may have been emitting at levels that could exceed DEQ standards the agency was lobbying to enact. In other words, they were trying to nail Entek for violations of yet to be promulgated future rules. Ironically, Entek was strongly opposed to the gross receipts tax aggressively pursued throughout the session by the Democrat majority.
OHA’s pernicious PR plans cannot be discussed without mentioning that OHA has made nearly $200 million in unlawful Medicaid payments to approximately 37,00 individuals. This is egregious especially given the $600 million in new taxes the Legislature just adopted to fund the program. It appears, agency officials are more interested in wielding their power to punish perceived enemies than to effectively and efficiently deliver vital health care services to Oregonians.
OHA is an agency in crisis. A public inquiry into these so-called “communications” plans should be conducted. Sen. Chuck Riley, D-Hillsboro, chairman of the Senate Committee on General Government and Accountability, is uniquely positioned to address such violations of the public trust. It is extremely vital former Director Saxton as well as other agency staff, are forced to answer questions explaining the plan’s development. Oregonians deserve to know the details surrounding these plans, so the legislature can ensure no further abuses of power can occur.
Oregonians deserve a state government that is efficient, effective, and accountable; not one that wastes taxpayer dollars and uses its regulatory power to punish its perceived political enemies. Chair Riley cannot let these abuses go unaddressed.
With great concern,
Sen. Kim Thatcher