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Howard Dean and Earl Blumenauer
Story by Dana Haynes. Photos by Russell Banks.
The Cascade Campus played host to a town hall session featuring Gov. Howard Dean and Congressman Earl Blumenauer. Dean is a former Vermont governor, former chairman of the Democratic National Committee and 2004 candidate for president. Blumenauer, District 3, represents most of Multnomah County and northern Clackamas County. He formerly served on the Oregon Legislature and, from 1974 to 1981, served on the PCC Board of Directors.
They were in town to tout the so-called “public option” variation of health insurance reform. This is the plan favored by President Obama, in which the federal government would create an insurance program, much like Medicare, available for everyone. People would have the option of keeping their for-profit insurance or opting into the public program. The for-profits would be required to compete against the public program in such areas as cost and exclusions based on pre-existing conditions.
“This is an issue of vital importance to everyone,” said PCC President Preston Pulliams, who spoke at the town hall event. “The current system is broken. Turning this around is a key component of pulling the nation out of this recession.”
That’s true for the business community, workers and even the public sector, such as Portland Community College. Jerry Donnelly, director of Human Resources for PCC, said the college’s average premium increases by approximately 10 percent every year. That means the cost of health insurance more than doubles every eight years.
The visit by Dean and Blumenauer, both Democrats, drew an estimated 30 protesters who favor another version of health insurance reform: the so-called “single payer” option. Under the single payer, the for-profit health insurance providers would be eliminated, moving everyone onto the Medicare-style government insurance program.
The protesters chanted “single payer” outside the Moriarty Arts and Humanities Building. Portland Police arrested one man for trespassing.
“These protesters make a good point,” Dean said at one point. “This is a good conversation to be had.”
Blumenauer said it was unlikely that Congress could muster the votes for the single-payer option, while the public option has a much better chance of passage this year.
“Thanks to PCC for hosting this. This is great,” Blumenauer added.