My Take on Why Oregon Health Forum Went Under
Diane Lund-Muzikant offers her thoughts on the demise of the organization she founded
December 18, 2009 -- Most people have learned the fate of Oregon Health Forum by now – the newsletter and educational organization I created in 1990 to shine a light on the healthcare industry. But what led to its downfall?
I believe it was doomed to fail when I was forced to leave three years ago.
A fearless publication that prided itself on telling the truth, Oregon Health News simply lost its edge. Its tone became less confrontational; its articles less hard-hitting. With its value diminished, the healthcare industry eventually pulled away, refusing to provide financial support.
I still remember when Oregon Health News used to curl the spines of its subscribers who would hurriedly tear open their mailing envelopes to read what I’d uncovered about hospital profits, the salaries of insurance executives or the political struggles between physicians and hospital administrators.
During my 16-year tenure at Oregon Health News, I faced a torrent of criticism from hospital administrators, insurance CEOs and pharmaceutical representatives who complained about my investigative reports. But rarely did anyone cancel their subscription. In fact, those same people flocked to renew their subscriptions each year.
One clear indication of the newsletter’s success in creating a more visible healthcare system occurred when two health insurers -- ODS Health Plan and PacificSource Health Plans -- sold their tobacco stocks a few years ago. I had discovered these holdings while sifting through financial records at the Oregon Insurance Division. Not long thereafter, both insurers sold those stocks and changed their bylaws prohibiting such purchases.
I’m proud of my record at Oregon Health News. As editor, the newsletter gained respect by giving stakeholders a clearer picture of what goes on behind the scenes, and it was frequently cited in Congressional and state legislative hearings. It was an honest voice, free of advertising and editorial oversight.
In October 2006 when the board of directors decided to turn the newsletter into an industry mouthpiece and asked me to resign, I refused to walk away gracefully and instead filed a lawsuit to contest, among other things, a non-compete clause in my contract, which was eventually ruled illegal.
Realizing there was a need to keep people informed about the burgeoning healthcare industry, I launched The Lund Report in April. Since then more than 15,000 people have read our stories, and our numbers keep climbing.
As editor, I refuse to accept special interest money from the industry or paid advertisements. Instead, our support comes from individual donations.
Now that the Oregon Health News has folded, The Lund Report is the only independent voice of news on healthcare issues in the Pacific Northwest. And, I’m very confident we’ll be around for many years to come.
Dec 18 2009