Dean makes house calls in New Hampshire

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(Host) Former governor Howard Dean has unveiled a new theme for his campaign to win the Democratic presidential nomination. Dean, the only physician in the race, is making “house calls” to health care centers to promote his plan to provide universal access to health care.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel accompanied Dean this week as the candidate made his first “house call” in New Hampshire.

(Kinzel) The Lamprey Health Care Center is located on a small town highway in Newmarket, New Hampshire, a former mill town that’s located just outside of Portsmouth.

In a hallway next to the center’s small medical laboratory, Dean talks with Director Ann Peters about some of her concerns. Following a brief tour, roughly 50 people gathered in the center’s basement conference room to hear Dean outline his plan to provide universal access to health care.

The proposal is patterned after two Vermont programs that use Medicaid funds to provide coverage: Dr. Dynasaur, which helps insure children under 18, and the Vermont Health Access Plan, which provides coverage to adults with incomes under roughly $30,000. Dean would pay for his program by rescinding the recent tax cut passed by Congress.

Dean says the plan is realistic because it builds on the country’s existing health care system:

(Dean) “Now if we can do that in a small rural state – which is 26th in income, which has a balanced budget and a better fiscal record than almost every other state in the country. Surely the most wealthy and powerful society on the face of the earth can make sure that we join all those other countries – the British, the French, the Germans, the Italians, the Irish, the Israelis, the Canadians, the Japanese – all those other countries in having health insurance for all our people.”

(Kinzel) Ann Peters, the director of the center, says she’s impressed with Dean’s proposal. The center operates three facilities in New Hampshire and treating uninsured patients is a major problem:

(Peters) “Our Nashua center is 75% uninsured. It is a challenge to try to come up with the resources to be able to provide the care. It’s hard to piece together when you get 25 cents on a dollar. It’s hard to come up with that other 75% and it’s a high need.”

(Kinzel) Pamela Bronson is a member of a group called New Hampshire for Health Care – it’s an organization that’s calling on local, state and national political leaders to address the skyrocketing cost of health care. Bronson likes Dean’s plan but is concerned that too many special interest groups will oppose it:

(Bronson) “I think he has a very noble effort. But sadly what I’ve witnessed first hand in New Hampshire state politics is that it would be difficult for him to get elected if he truly is genuine about that platform. Because he’s going after physicians, hospitals, drug companies – you know, people that help to drive the political decisions in our country, unfortunately and sadly.”

(Kinzel) Dean says he plans to make many more house calls in the next few months, particularly in the early primary states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel.

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