Broun lights health care 'grass fire'

U.S. Rep. Paul Broun wants to ignite a "grass fire" of opposition to health care reform legislation pending in Congress, and two overflow crowds in Columbia County helped him fan those flames Monday night.

Dr. Broun, R-Ga., called the pending Democratic legislation an "abomination" and "a stinking rotten fish" and said Democratic efforts are the "steamroll of socialism." He did offer up his own idea for reform, including a Medicare health savings account that would follow the beneficiaries, allowing them to spend what Medicare would have spent on them in their own way.

The crowds at the Columbia County Board of Education building -- organizers had to add a second event to accommodate the hundreds of people initially turned away -- egged him on.

"America is mad as hell, and we're not going to take it anymore," said Joyce Jamison of Evans.

The crowd was not uniformly opposed. Sameera Thurmond of Augusta joked that she might be the only Democrat in the room as she held a sign that said 83 percent support the public option insurance program envisioned in the legislation.

"I just think that it is equitable that everyone should have access to health care," she said.

Dr. Broun said that public option is the first stop toward "socialized medicine" once employers begin dropping coverage and forcing employees into it.

Many in the crowd, including Jim Pritchard of Harlem, asked how they could do more to help defeat the legislation.

"The common man should be able to do more," Mr. Pritchard said.

Dr. Broun assured him that public opposition to the plan had already prevented its passage before the August congressional recess.

"Y'all stopped it, and I congratulate y'all," he said.

But he urged the crowd to contact friends and family in other states -- particularly in districts with conservative Democrats who might be on the fence -- to voice their opposition.

"This crowd right here has influence in every state in the country," Dr. Broun said.

Reach Tom Corwin at (706) 823-3213 or tom.corwin@augustachronicle.com.