CLARKESVILLE, Ga. - U.S. Rep. Paul Broun, R-Athens, walked into a North Georgia Technical College auditorium Tuesday evening to a standing ovation, holding three thick white binders.
"Folks, this is Obamacare," he said, holding the binders over his head.
"Let me start this by telling you what I think of this bill and (President) Obama," he said, and slammed the binders on the ground.
With that, Broun set the tone for a town hall meeting on health care reform. The Democrats' proposal is too expensive and will threaten millions of Georgians' jobs and lives, he said.
"This is a stinking, rotten fish, and they don't want you to smell it, and they want to shove it down your throat and make you eat it before you smell how rotten and stinky it is," he said.
At another point, Broun, who last year made national news by comparing Obama to Hitler, called Cuba's former dictator Fidel Castro and leftist Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez Obama's "good buddy."
He also spoke of a "socialistic elite" - Obama, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid - who might use a pandemic disease or natural disaster as an excuse to declare martial law.
"They're trying to develop an environment where they can take over," he said. "We've seen that historically."
Many speakers in the senior-heavy audience honed in on a clause in the health care proposal that would require insurers to cover end-of-life counseling sessions to help healthy patients decide beforehand what types of treatments they want to keep them alive if they are about to die.
"(Obama) is going to let the old folks die, and I don't like that at all," Oconee County resident Gene Aycock said.
Young people who get sick would get preference over the elderly under the Democrats' plan, said Broun, a medical doctor who made house calls in the Athens area before taking office in 2007.
"Eventually, mama will be lying in bed until she gets pneumonia and dies," he said.
Citing a study by the Lewin Group, a consulting firm owned by the insurance company UnitedHealth Group, Broun said 114 million Americans will be forced off their employers' insurance plans and onto a competing government-run plan because small businesses will not be able to pay for the mandated insurance. The Democrats' plan would be a precursor to a single-payer system, he said.
"They want to take away your insurance and dictate what kind of health care you're going to get," he said.
A federal health care program for veterans and senior citizens' Medicare Advantage benefits also are at risk, he said.
Broun proposed an alternative to the Democrats' plan that includes allowing groups of people like University of Georgia graduates or Rotary Club members to band together to cut insurance costs, restricting malpractice lawsuits, expanding health savings accounts, offering Medicaid recipients a choice of private plans, making all health care expenses tax-deductible and expanding state insurance programs for people with pre-existing conditions.
"We can lower the cost of health care markedly by giving people more options and letting the market work," he said.
At some town hall meetings around the country during Congress' annual August recess, conservative protesters have clashed with Democrats and disrupted events. However, at Broun's Tuesday hearing, the crowd of 500 or so clearly was almost unanimously on Broun's side and relatively peaceful.
One woman attempted to ask a critical question about covering the uninsured while Broun was speaking, and Habersham County sheriff's deputies briefly removed her from the room before allowing her back inside. When she rambled for a few seconds during the designated question-and-answer period, Broun politely asked her to respect the people waiting to speak, but members of the audience shouted, "Cut her mike."
Attendance Tuesday was well short of the estimated 1,500 to 2,000 who came out to a similar meeting Broun hosted Monday in Evans, but enough people showed up that he split the group into two sessions. About 400 people packed into the 250-seat auditorium for the first meeting, and 150 stuck around for the second.
Broun assured the crowds he will vote against the Democrats' plan no matter what. He urged them to contact friends and relatives in other states to tell conservative Blue Dog Democrats to do the same