A few days after announcing he has prostate cancer Sen. Chris Dodd was back on the job pushing for national health care reform.

In Hartford on Monday Dodd was joined by U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, and U.S. Small Business Administrator Karen Mills.

Inside Connecticut Commercial Maintenance Inc.‘s Hartford warehouse a group of small business owners talked to Congressional Democrats and Obama administration officials about their desire to provide health insurance to their employees, while a handful of protesters gathered outside the event to express their opposition to a government-run health care option.

Christine Stuart photo

Following the event Dodd conducted an interview outside the warehouse and at its conclusion he spotted the handful of protesters across the street and turned to his staff to ask who they were. As he pulled out of the parking lot Dodd pulled up to the protesters and asked if they wanted to discuss the issue with him.

Jim Bancroft, one of the protesters who is part of the Dump Dodd and Tea Party movements, said Dodd asked if he wanted to talk to him and he declined. 

Bancroft, who is currently uninsured and on disability for a back injury, said if he needs medical attention he will pay for it himself. Estelle Stevenson, another protester who was standing next to Bancroft, said she has health insurance with a $5,000 deductible and had to refinance her mortgage in order to pay her insurance bills.

Bancroft wondered what Dodd would do about his prostate if he didn’t have the Congressional health insurance plan. “Congress needs to get off the federal teat,” he said.

Earlier inside the event, Dodd talked about his now famous prostate.

“My prostate is probably the best known prostate in America today,” Dodd said.

“Given the alternative, I’d prefer there was an alternative, but I’m maybe not a bad example right now. I have a very good health care plan. I’m a member of Congress and members of Congress get very good health care,” Dodd said.

He said when he was diagnosed he didn’t have to worry that he would receive the care he needs. He said he wants every American to wake up with the same sense of security he has should they receive a similar diagnosis.

“This is the critical moment, if we’re going to get this done,” Dodd said.

“I’d argue we’ve been waiting for 70 years to get something done on health care reform and the next 12 weeks are going to be critical,” he added. 

Dodd is scheduled to have surgery on his prostate during the Congressional recess in August. Afterward he will resume his work and continue as temporary chairman of the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, which is one of the five committees leading the national health care debate. Dodd has been pinch hitting for U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., whose battle with brain cancer has reduced his workload.

Christine Stuart photo

As the national health care reform debate heats up, Sebelius said there has been “a lot of misinformation being promulgated.”

“Scare tactics for seniors and others, the notion of the government takeover nothing could be further from the truth,” she said. “Doing nothing is just absolutely not an option and I think that’s the point we have to get across.”

“I think there is a bit of a misconception that the health reform discussion is only about people who are uninsured,” Sebelius said. “I think more importantly its about those of us who have insurance. Stabilizing the current market because frankly we’re all an accident away, a paycheck away from losing our coverage.” 

Sebelius said health care reform is about comprehensive coverage for the uninsured, but it’s also about changing the insurance rules, so those with preexisting conditions are no longer excluded from the marketplace.

Kevin Galvin, president of Connecticut Commercial Maintenance Inc., employs six people and would like to expand his business, but is unable to attract qualified employees because he can’t afford to provide health insurance. He said he recently lost a worker who took a job with a 30 percent reduction in pay and fewer hours to get health care benefits.

“Small business people live with these issues everyday,” Galvin said.