- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 29, 2009

DENVER | Lawmakers returning home for the August recess will hear from conservative constituents about the Democrat-led Congress’ proposed health care plans, if the organizers of a rally here Tuesday have their way.

Several hundred Coloradans gathered at the state capitol to protest the expansion of government-run health care, saying it would result in longer lines, higher costs, lower quality and ultimately the rationing of health care.

Jeff Crank, chairman of Americans for Prosperity’s Colorado branch, predicted that members of Congress would be inundated with criticism over health care reform as they visit with their constituents in August. The proposal is stalled in the House and even some Democrats predict no action will be taken until Congress reconvenes in September.

“The August recess is crucial,” said Mr. Crank, a former top aide to retired Rep. Joel Heffley, Colorado Republican. Administration officials “wanted to vote on this bill because they didn’t want them to listen to you. But now they’re going to have to listen to you.”

Mr. Crank and other speakers instead promoted free-market health care reforms, include making health insurance portable from job-to-job and putting limits on malpractice awards in order to reduce costs to doctors.

Ari Armstrong, a free-market writer and blogger, called for eliminating employer-paid health care, saying that it gave patients no incentive to take costs into account and made doctors answerable to bureaucrats - both problems the Democratic plans being debated would exacerbate, he said.

“Unfortunately, Barack Obama is not offering us real reform. He’s offering us more of the same problems we have now, only massively ramped up,” Mr. Armstrong said.

Supporters of the Obama health care plan dismissed the rally as the work of “national right-wing attack groups,” in the words of Michael Huttner, founder of ProgressNow Colorado.

“These are the same out-of-state right-wing millionaires who paid for the ‘tea parties’ and the ‘anti-stimulus’ protest in Denver last February,” Mr. Huttner said. “Their sole interest is in fomenting trouble for the president and his agenda, whatever the issue of the day may be.”

Independence Institute President Jon Caldara, whose group helped organize the rally, denied that his Golden-based organization was being used as a “front group” for a national agenda, although he said he would be receptive to any offers.

“As far as the Independence Institute being a front for rich national organizations, the response is: ‘I wish. Please, make it so,’ ” Mr. Caldara said.

“And I find it wonderfully ironic that ProgressNow points to anyone they say is funded by rich guys. George Soros? Tim Gill? I mean, please,” he said, referring to two prominent tycoons who raise millions for liberal and Democratic causes.

Rally-goers wore white T-shirts with the message, “Hands Off My Health Care” and waved signs with messages like, “No Socialized Medicine” and “My Dollar, My Doctor, My Decisions.” Nearly everyone had a horror story about friends and relatives dealing with government-run health care in Canada and Europe.

Harald Hoegberg, born in Sweden but now living in Denver, said his Swedish cousin was diagnosed with cancer in November 2003 and scheduled for surgery the following January. He died before the operation could take place.

“In Sweden you have these huge regional hospitals. You’ll never see the same doctor twice,” Mr. Hoegberg said.

There was also praise for the American system which, despite its problems, speakers said, can be counted on to deliver prompt service. Mr. Caldara said he was able to schedule an MRI on his back the day after his doctor recommended it. A friend of his in Canada had to wait 52 weeks for the same procedure.

Mr. Caldara also cited the case of his young son, who was born with Down syndrome and a hole in his heart that required emergency surgery shortly after his birth.

“I don’t know if he would be alive if we had what Obama is pushing,” he said.

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