by: TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO - Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley is feeling the chill from the Affordable Care Act's website troubles.Oregon U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley is emerging in the national news media as a prime example of a Democrat up for re-election next year and panicked by the problems with the Affordable Care Act.

Just a few weeks ago, Merkley was such a strong defender of Obamacare that he attacked Republican challenger Monica Wehby, a Portland pediatric surgeon, for opposing it.

But since then Merkley repeatedly has criticized the program’s website problems and required cancellation of substandard programs. Last week he co-sponsored a bill to allow people who had their insurance policies canceled to keep them for another year.

“Merkley joins Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D.-Calif.) as surprise, bright-blue state Democrats who have become co-sponsors of the bill over the past day. Together, they amount to the most high-profile, nonred-state Democrats to buck party lines on the Affordable Care Act,” the Business Insider website wrote on Nov. 13, citing Oregon’s Democratic voter registration edge.

Policy extension buys time for Cover Oregon website

But Merkley took much longer to recalibrate his position on Obamacare than Oregon Insurance Commissioner Laura Cali took to embrace President Obama’s offer to extend canceled policies another year. Cali’s office issued a news release saying she would allow state-regulated companies to continue their now-substandard policies on Friday, the day after Obama announced the change in a White House news conference.

Of course, Oregon has a good reason to want the canceled policies extended. No one has been able to sign up for coverage through the Cover Oregon website so far. Despite hundreds of millions of dollars spent to design and advertise it, the state’s health care exchange website is just about the worst in the country, according to numerous news reports.

Most other state insurance commissioners said they needed time to consider the change and consult with insurance companies in their states. Even states with Democratic governors like Massachussetts haven’t announced they will go along with the last change to the act yet. California, Florida and Kentucky are going along with Obama, however.

Drink up: Happy hour might improve your health

Upstream Public Health argued that adding fluoride to the region’s Bull Run water supply would improve our health, but Portlanders didn’t buy that argument, rejecting water fluoridation in a May referendum.

Now Upstream Public Health is launching a series of monthly forums, called Happy Hour for Health.

In other cities, some might question a public health group encouraging beer consumption. But it might be an easier sell to convince Portlanders that microbrews are good for our health.

The first one takes place Dec. 4 at a Portland brewpub, The Commons Brewery, located at 1810 S.E. 10th Ave. Presenters include Lisa Sedlar, owner of Green Zebra Grocery, who will talk about the importance of access to fresh, local food.

“Come to learn with and connect to other like-minded upstream thinkers, enjoy appetizers, wine and try a complimentary Commons Brewery beer!” according to an

announcement on Upstream’s website.

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