AUGUSTA — About 20 people shivered in the cold Tuesday morning on the granite portico at the Kennebec County Superior Courthouse, most holding “Hands Off My Healthcare” signs.

“We’re pointing to the major rally in Washington, D.C.,” said organizer Carol Weston, Maine director of Americans for Prosperity. She said rallies were scheduled in 10 other cities across the country.

The Tuesday morning rally in the state capital coincided with the U.S. Supreme Court hearing arguments about President Barack Obama’s health care law. Weston said the group objects in particular to the individual mandate to buy health insurance, the topic that was addressed Tuesday by the high court.

Augusta’s rally was billed as “an opportunity for Mainers to voice their opposition to the greatest intrusion into the private lives of American citizens in a generation.”

“We believe it’s unconstitutional,” Weston said of the Affordable Care Act, which is often referred to as “Obamacare” by its critics.

During the rally, Weston told those gathered, “We have a crisis in government. There’s too much of it, and it’s too big.”

Diana and Parks Holcomb drove from Norway to take part in the rally.

“Health care, the way it’s being proposed, is not constitutional,” said Parks Holcomb. “The bill has too many rules and regulations.”

Diana Holcomb said she would prefer a plan with more free market options.

“I think this Obamacare is a travesty,” said Landon St. Peter, of Oakland, who is a field coordinator for the John Birch Society, a conservative political advocacy group. But he questioned whether the rallies against the law nationwide would have an effect on the Supreme Court’s deliberations.

Joel Allumbaugh, who is an insurance broker and president of the Maine Association of Health Underwriters, said he saw troubling aspects of the law which will drive up already high health insurance costs.

Americans for Prosperity is a national organization “committed to advancing every individual’s right to economic freedom and opportunity,” according to its website.

The White House, meanwhile, has posted on its website a list of ways it says the Affordable Care Act has benefited Maine.

Among the items listed are cheaper prescription drugs for those on Medicare “averaging $530.35 in savings per person in 2011,” as well as free preventive services for Medicare recipients. The federal law also removes lifetime limits on the amount of care and has enabled 7,329 more people under age 26 to get insurance on parent’s plan, according to the website.

Weston, however, cast the law as a constitutional crisis that presents “an opportunity to change the course of government and an opportunity to fight for our rights.”

“We are not going away,” she said. “We are a free people. We will work, we will sacrifice, and we will vote to remain so.”

 

Betty Adams — 621-5631

badams@centralmaine.com