SALEM — The governor nominated Bill Thorndike of Medford this week to chair the newly created Oregon Health Fund Board, charged by the state Legislature with developing a plan for ensuring that every Oregonian has access to medical care.

If confirmed by the state Senate, Thorndike, owner of Medford Fabrication and a former trustee for the Rogue Valley Medical Center Foundation, will oversee the temporary seven-member board as it charts a course toward prevention-based universal health care.

Created by the 18-page Healthy Oregon Act, the panel will have $2.3 million in state and federal funds to draft policy suggestions for lawmakers to consider in the 2009 legislative session, including how to lower health care costs and how to insure the 600,000 Oregonians who lack coverage.

State Sen. Alan Bates, the Ashland Democrat and physician who championed the bipartisan-backed legislation that created the task force, said finding solutions is not the difficult part; it’s getting lawmakers’ to implement them that could be difficult.

"That is where the rubber’s going to meet the road," said Bates, who before being elected to the state Legislature served on the panel that developed the blueprint for what later became the Oregon Health Plan.

In a statement, Gov. Ted Kulongoski said the panel will soon undertake a "crucial issue" for the state. "I look forward to working with the board to achieve the long-sought goal of providing affordable health care for all Oregonians," the Democratic governor said.

The other board members include: Portland attorney Jonathan Ater, Eileen Brady, co-owner of Portland-based New Seasons Market; Tom Chamberlain of the Oregon AFL-CIO; Ray Miao, president of the Oregon chapter of the AARP; Marcus Mundy, president of the Urban League of Portland; and Dr. Charles Hoffman of Baker City.

covers the state Legislature for the Ashland Daily Tidings. You can reach him at csrizo@hotmail.com