John was born in Colfax, Washington, March 5, 1947; graduated from Dartmouth College, 1969; and the University of Oregon Medical School, 1973. He did his internship in Denver with four rotations in the emergency departments of Denver General Hospital, Denver Children’s Hospital and University Hospital. Following his internship, he practiced Emergency Medicine in Roseburg, Oregon from 1974-1989 with one year of general practice and surgery from 1976-1977.
He was elected to the Oregon House of Representatives in 1978; the State Senate in 1980, 1984 and 1988, serving as Senate President from 1985-1993. In 1994 John was elected Governor of Oregon, holding that office from 1995-2003 and again from 2011-2015, making him Oregon’s longest-serving governor.
Between 1978 and 1989 he continued to practice emergency medicine while simultaneously serving in the legislature. This gave him a unique perspective on the implications of public policy at the point of delivery. As Senate President, he authored the groundbreaking Oregon Health Plan, which challenged federal policy around categorical eligibility and sought to prioritize health services based on social values and clinical effectiveness. Hundreds of thousands of low and moderate-income Oregon families and their children still have access to health care because of this work.
Between his second and third terms as governor, John served as President of the Estes Park Institute; and held the Endowed Chair on Health Policy at The Foundation for Medical Excellence.
During his third term as governor John was the chief architect of Oregon’s Coordinated Care Organizations (CCOs), the first effort in the country created on a statewide basis to meet the Triple Aim—better health, better quality, lower cost—with a focus on community and population health. Over the past five years Oregon's new CCO care model has reduced the Medicaid cost trend by two percentage points per member per month, realizing a new total funds savings of $2.2 billion. At the same time, benefits were maintained, enrollment was expanded by 385,000 people and all the CCOs met rigorous outcome and quality metrics. Today nearly a million people—one out of every four Oregonians and fifty percent of our children—get quality care through a CCO.
In 2013 Modern Healthcare Magazine ranked John #2 on list of the “100 Most Influential People in Health Care;” and #1 on the list of the “50 Most Influential Physician Executives. In 2013, Governing Magazine named John “Public Official of the Year.”
While perhaps best known for his work in health policy, John is one of the Northwest’s most dedicated environmental advocates. He was the author of the legislation establishing minimum stream flows and creating Oregon’s first public instream water right. In 1997 he was the architect of the Oregon Plan for Salmon and Watersheds.
Throughout his public career, he has championed collaboration to bridge the false choices that create polarization and political gridlock—including the false choice between cost and access; and between healthy rural communities and a healthy environment. John is currently a writer, speaker and private consultant. He lives in Portland and spends his free time fly fishing and white water rafting on the Northwest’s wild and scenic rivers.