Bloomberg News

Hundreds Protest Health-Care Law Amid Skepticism at Court

March 27, 2012

Hundreds of protesters carrying “Don’t Tread on Me” flags and shouting “Freedom” rallied near the U.S. Supreme Court against the Obama administration’s health-care overhaul, while inside a majority of the justices challenged the constitutionality of the law’s keystone provision.

Bearing signs that read “One Big Lie” and “We already have too many bureaucrats,” the demonstrators today chanted, “Hey, hey, ho, ho, Obamacare has got to go.” They gathered outside the U.S. Capitol, facing the court building, at an event sponsored by Americans for Prosperity, a Tea Party-affiliated group.

“This isn’t about health care; it’s about freedom,” said Senator Ron Johnson, a Wisconsin Republican. “Far too many Americans are trading their freedom for a false sense of economic security.’

Five Republican-appointed justices hinted they might strike down the law backed by President Barack Obama. They directed pointed questions at the administration’s chief courtroom lawyer, who defended the central provision of the law that requires Americans to obtain insurance or face fines.

That mandate is what prompted Thomas Bird to drive eight hours from Bradford, New Hampshire, to take part in the demonstration.

On his red plaid shirt, Bird wore a button that said “non- compliant,” underscoring his pledge not to get health insurance if the court upholds the law.

Buying a Chevy

“If they tell us we have to buy insurance, what are they going to tell us to buy next? Chevy Volts?” Bird said.

Bird, 52, held a flag saying “Liberty or Death” and a placard that quoted French-Algerian writer Albert Camus: “The welfare of humanity has always been the alibi of tyrants.”

An employee of a gun shop, Bird said he doesn’t have health insurance. He opened his mouth, pointed to a cracked tooth and said he couldn’t afford to go to the dentist to get it fixed.

Earlier, chanting and singing supporters of the health law massed at the steps of the Supreme Court. Rose Jaffe, 23, said she was there to protect women’s health-care services and rally against Republican efforts to roll back abortion rights.

“I feel the government affecting the choices I have with my body is very scary,” Jaffe said.

Camped Out

Rachel Thomas, 25, is getting her master’s in public health from Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia and drove down last night to camp out for a chance at being in the room at the court.

“This dictates what I can do” with the degree “and I wanted to be a part of it,” said Thomas, who supports the law.

By afternoon, the opponents organized by Americans for Prosperity outnumbered supporters of health-care overhaul. Republican Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota and Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky spoke against the law at their rally, urging them to call their members of Congress.

The court probably will rule in late June, just months before the November election. A decision against the measure, while gratifying to the protesters, could energize Democrats concerned over the direction of the high court. There are four Democratic- appointed justices and five named by Republican presidents.

Expanding Medicaid

Tomorrow, the final day of three days of arguments on the law, the justices will consider what should happen to the rest of the statute if they invalidate the insurance requirement. The court also will hear arguments on a provision that expands the Medicaid program. States say it unconstitutionally coerces them into spending more on health care for the poor.

The law’s opponents say they believe the government lacks the authority or expertise to take a primary role in health care.

Before today’s rally, Janis Haddon of Atlanta said the government will make the health-care system worse. “They can’t even run the post office,” she said. “How can they run health care?”

A retired school teacher, Haddon, 65, said she didn’t like being forced into Medicare and off the insurance she received through her husband’s company, a distributor of generators and other electrical equipment.

The law doesn’t require those who are insured by their employer to give it up.

Mickey Mouse Gloves

Haddon wore puffy Mickey Mouse white gloves that she got when she visited Disney World in Orlando, Florida, three weeks ago. On each finger she had written, “No!”

A friend, Judy Burel, 63, of Duluth, Georgia, said she is concerned the law would accelerate the rising costs of her family’s cabinetmaking business, Chattahoochee Kitchen and Bath Inc.

The law has given insurers the power to jack up costs for small businesses, Burel said. Premiums recently have risen $2,000 annually for each of the company’s 10 employees, she said.

“To keep the costs down, we had to increase our deductible” that an employee pays, Burel said. “It’s just tough out there.”

After a career in social work in Dallas, Joyce Bennett retired with health problems, including bad kidneys, high blood pressure and hypoglycemia. Now living in Baltimore, Bennett, 58, came to the rally because she said her Medicare coverage will be weakened by the legislation.

One of her chief concerns is that health care will be rationed, said Bennett, who may need a new kidney in the next few years.

“I’m going to be put on the back burner for a kidney” while younger patients get preference for the organ, Bennett said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jeff Bliss in Washington at jbliss@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Steven Komarow at skomarow1@bloomberg.net


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