Fifty people gathered outside the downtown federal building today during the lunching hour, shouting up to the fifth floor, “Wake up Wyden! Why are you hidin’?!” U.S. Senator Ron Wyden is not here in Portland today—right now he’s back in Washington, defending his health care plan to a finance committee that will be making major decisions this week about whether his and other healthcare plans up for debate are actually viable.
Wyden’s plan has roused the ire of health care reform groups for not including any public option, but he refuses to drop the idea and sign onto Obama's plan. “Lobbyists out! Americans in!” shouted the crowd, referencing the view that Wyden’s plan is shaped more by the desires of big pharma lobbyists than his constituents (a timely discussion given our “Rate the Lobbyists” feature this week). A MoveOn.org representative delivered Wyden’s secretary a 7,000-signature petition demanding a public option.
Except for the few minutes of chanting, the crowd was pretty quiet for a protest. They had to lean in to hear the sordid stories of insurance companies told over a crackly megaphone. “House payment or health care?” asked Portland resident Marcia Spencer, after she says the cost of her two-person family health plan with Kaiser jumped from $724 to $1000 a month with no notice. “I felt like they were holding us hostage. Senators need to draw a line in the sand and represent the people who voted for them.”