The conservative Heritage Action for American organization brought its anti-Obamacare tour to Indiana’s capitol city on Monday and called for Congress to defund the federal health care program – even if it leads to a partial government shutdown.
More than 300 people showed up at the group’s town hall meeting at the Hilton in downtown Indianapolis to hear Heritage Action Chief Executive Mike Needham and former Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina talk about health care.
DeMint, a Republican, is now the president of the group’s sister organization, The Heritage Foundation.
“Americans have every right after the way this bill was passed and the unfulfilled promises to demand their elected officials stop this bill before it’s implemented and before it’s too late,” DeMint said before the town hall began.
Indianapolis was the ninth city on an ongoing tour that DeMint said is meant to educate Americans about the health care law and the actions their elected officials could take to stop its implementation. Needham said Congress needs to take action before Oct. 1 when Americans without insurance can begin signing up through so-called exchanges – essentially online marketplaces – to buy health coverage.
“The goal here is to get rid of all of Obamacare,” Needham said. That would include popular provisions that protect patients with pre-existing conditions and rules that let young adults stay on their parents’ policies longer as well as more controversial provisions that require all Americans to buy insurance.
DeMint said Congress should scrap the plan and then put back in place those provisions that make sense. And he called for new rules to let insurance companies sell policies across state lines and let individuals keep those policies throughout their lives, even as they change jobs and move.
But even if the GOP-controlled U.S. House passes a budget plan that doesn’t fund the health care law, it’s unlikely to pass the Senate, where Democrats hold the majority. And that standoff could lead to a shutdown of nonessential federal government services when the existing federal budget expires on Oct. 1.
“We could win that argument,” DeMint said Monday.
But supporters of the existing federal health care law held their own event on Monday on the Indiana Statehouse steps, where state Rep. Ed Delaney, D-Indianapolis, said the Heritage events have been aimed at scaring Americans about the federal health care law.
“Do we want to make people afraid of health care?” Delaney said. “Or do we want to make them informed about health care. That’s the whole dispute.”
State Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, said that, in Indiana, the health care law already means that 62,000 young adults have insurance through their parents’ policies; 85,000 seniors have saved more than $60 million on prescription drugs, and roughly 376,000 children with pre-existing conditions no longer can be denied health care.
“Many Hoosiers are seeing those benefits and many more will realize many more benefits come Oct. 1 of this year,” Lanane said.
But, on Monday night, Needham said the public doesn’t support the health care law and voters need to insist their elected officials vote to defund it, and he introduced U.S. Reps. Marlin Stutzman, R-3rd District, and Todd Rokita, R-4th District, who attended the meeting.
Needham compared the anti-Obamacare fight to the effort less than a year ago to stop gun control legislation that once appeared likely to pass following a shooting spree at an elementary school in Connecticut.
“The time to fight is now and we will defund Obamacare in September,” he said, as the crowd applauded. “Yes we can,” the crowd chanted.
DeMint looked across the standing-room-only crowd and told those in the back that the space plan was intentional. “We’re trying to simulate a doctor’s waiting room” after Obamacare goes into effect, he said to crowd laughter.
But then he turned serious, telling the crowd that Obama wants to “centrally manage everything,” including the economy, taxation and individual liberties.
“The reason we call ourselves conservative is we want to conserve the things that work,” he said. “Sometimes it does seem like we’re angry, because we are.”
He said that’s because liberal leaders are misleading the public about health care, poverty and the middle class. And he accused Obama of trying to lead the country into centralized medicine. But Delaney said that what conservatives are attacking is actually a law that promotes private insurance.
“Apparently, Mr. DeMint and others want private health insurance to fail,” Delaney said. The existing insurance system was “costing too much, it was covering too few and to many people were excluded and so we decided to try to fix it.” “Have we done a perfect job? No,” Delaney said. “Will change be disruptive? Yes. Will most people benefit? Absolutely. Will the system benefit? Yes.”