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Conn. Sen. Dodd pushes for health care reform

U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd told small business owners Monday that he will spend the month of August pushing for national health care reform while dealing with his own health care issues.
/ Source: The Associated Press

U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd told small business owners Monday that he will spend the month of August pushing for national health care reform while dealing with his own health care issues.

Dodd, who announced last week that he has prostate cancer, appeared at a round-table discussion at a warehouse in Hartford with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to speak to small businesses about the need for health insurance reform. A handful of protesters picketed across the street, holding hand-written signs with messages like, "Stimulate capitalism, not socialism."

Dodd has been a key player in the Senate this year, shepherding a national health care plan through various committees as Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., chairman of the Senate's health committee, battles brain cancer.

Dodd joked that he has the best-known prostate in America. He declined to offer specifics on when he's slated to undergo surgery, saying only that it will be "taken care of" this month. But his situation illustrates the urgent need for health care reform, he said.

"I didn't wake up the morning of June 19th — when I found out I had prostate cancer — and worry about whether or not I have a health care plan or whether I would get access to good care," he said. "I want every American to go wake up with that same sense of security."

U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., said health care is particularly critical for small businesses in Connecticut. Small businesses in the state account for 80 percent of new jobs, but fewer than half of those jobs come with health insurance, DeLauro said.

"Rising health care costs, a dysfunctional insurance market, mean that fewer and fewer small businesses are able to offer coverage," she said. She noted that 7 out of 10 small businesses offered health insurance in 2007, but that number has since dropped to 6 out of 10.

A third of the nation's uninsured — an estimated 13 million Americans — work for small businesses, U.S. Small Business Administration Administrator Karen Mills said.

"We know that small businesses are the engine that's going to lead us out of this recession," she said. "And it's going to be the foundation stone for how we create good-paying jobs in the economy, so we have to make sure that small businesses are viable."

Sebelius and Mills intend to travel across the country this month conducting similar forums. They have already made stops in Las Vegas, New Orleans and Dayton, Ohio, Mills said.

"We are all the mercy of what happens next," Sebelius said.