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Tea Party’s Medicare Beneficiaries Honk Up Palm Coast Against Federal Health Mandate

| March 26, 2012

flagler county tea party protest

Somebody needed and ambulance. (© FlaglerLive)

Just as the first day of arguments over the federal health law were concluding before the U.S. Supreme Court at 11:30 this morning, Palm Coast and Flagler County tea party activists were gathering at the four corners of the intersection of Palm Coast Parkway and Cypress Point Parkway for their latest anti-Obama rally. In this case, an anti “Obamacare” rally, as opponents of the federal health law like to call it.

Hands waved. Horns blew. Engines revved. Flags fluttered. Signs showing the president in various stages of disfigurement or giving him and his “Obamacare” a piece of the brandishers’ mind bobbed up and down as the activists stood at the four corners of the intersection.

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But it was a distinctly thinner crowd than rallies of old: a total of 52 people at noon, a few more a half hour later. Nothing close to the hundreds of people who’d gathered at the biggest local tea party rally yet, two years ago on April 15, when throngs lined up the corners and medians at Palm Coast Parkway and Old Kings Road. Tea party meetings used to pull in big crowds, too, by the hundreds. Lately, it’s been by the dozens.

A couple of factors have caused the drop: the Flagler County Tea Party Group splintered, with a break-away group forming a local chapter of the so-called Ronald Reagan Republican Assemblies of Florida. Some members toggle between the two groups. Some don’t. Another factor: the tea parties’ focus across the country has become fuzzier, its opposition energy either worn down or seeming tired, or out of touch, compared to the more youthful Occupy Wall Street movement. And tea party fans haven’t had a presidential candidate they can believe in wholeheartedly. That’s cooled their excitement. There’s also the delicate matter of age: tea party adherents are overwhelmingly older. They don’t live forever.

At the Palm Coast rally, some of the protesters weren’t even entirely sure why they were there. “Today I think is a national stop Obamacare rally that the tea parties across the country have. That’s what they told me,” John Ruffalo said, waving a sign of his own. But like his fellow-protesters, he knew where he stood and what he had to tell the federal government. “They’re in my kitchen telling me what I can eat. I can’t eat fat. They’re in my bathroom telling me to wipe my ass with three pieces of toilet paper. They’re in my bedroom telling me what I can do, what I can’t do,” Ruffalo said. “Stay out of my bedroom, stay out of my bathroom, stay out of my kitchen, stay out of my life.”

Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

Perhaps nine out of 10 of the protesters, including Ruffalo, were on Medicare, the government health insurance program for the elderly, and pulling in Social Security checks. But all opposed “Obamacare,” which would do markedly less than Medicare would when it comes to ensuring coverage, though it would require everyone to buy insurance—even if it’s bargain-basement insurance—or pay a fee to opt out. The protesters find that unconstitutional, even though virtually each one had been compelled to pay into the Medicare system for years, and accept Medicare coverage at 65.

How does the new federal health law interfere? “They’re overregulating everything. It was never intended to be this regulated,” Ruffalo says. Asking for specifics makes a specific answer difficult. Ruffalo, a 75-year-old cancer survivor, finds a way. “My doctor, my prostate doctor, is thinking of getting out of the business,” he says. “You know how many lives that man saved? Saved my life. So I’m only going by what he’s telling me. He’s not happy with it, he doesn’t like what’s happening, so if he’s the prostate doctor who’s saving all these lives, and he’s getting out of the business, there’s something wrong with it.”

Asked whether he’d be willing to give up Medicare, Ruffalo was just as categorical: “I wouldn’t give a shit one way or another.” He waved his sign. Horns blew. He added: “I’d give up Medicare. If I paid the doctor—tell me how much it is, and I’ll pay it.” He said he’d make payments if he couldn’t afford it. “Is that a problem, making payments or something?” Another man on the line says if he’d been able to contribute to a health savings account instead of Medicare since he was younger, he’d have had the money to care for himself.

Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

That’s true only up to a point, and even if Ruffalo had been able to contribute to his health savings account for 30 years, instead of to Medicare, he would not likely have been able to pay his medical bills. Health savings accounts enable some savings, but the amount that can be saved each year is capped. This year, for example, no more than $3,100 can be contributed to a health savings account by an individual (the family cap is $6,250). The money is used for out-of-pocket medical expenses. Absent Medicare, all medical expenses would have to be paid out of that account, which can be depleted by a single operation or hospital stay because the insurance coverage that comes with it is usually thin and itself capped. The savings can be invested much like a 401(k) plan, in stocks or mutual funds. But they’re also susceptible to stock market fluctuations—and steep losses, as anyone with a 401(k) experienced in 2001 and 2008.

A protest line on a street isn’t the place for reason or specifics, however: all arguments must neatly fit on a placard, preferably in the cadence of bumper stickers.

Near Ruffalo, a 76-year-old man who wouldn’t give his name put it this way: “I have Medicare, I have no complaints. I pay my 20 percent whenever I go to the doctor and I pick up the balance of the tab. I’m not complaining. I’m not looking for full coverage. I’m willing to contribute some.” The new federal insurance law would not work much differently, though it’s likely to be more expensive than Medicare and afford less coverage. “You should not be forced to do anything you don’t want to do,” the man says. “And I know, you’re going to say to me yeah but then when somebody doesn’t have coverage, they get sick, they go to the hospital. They do it today. They do it today.” He was sure of one thing: “Under the new law you’re going to have options. They’re coming. As soon as we take this guy out of office, you’ll have your options.”

Tom Lawrence, who chairs the local tea party group, was across the street at the northeast corner of the intersection. He wasn’t worried about the thinner numbers. The protest was spread out from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Various people signed up for various time slots, Lawrence said, and 50 or so people was a good showing. He’d decided to move the protest from its previous location at Palm Coast Parkway and Old Kings for the greater visibility at the Cypress intersection.

“We’re here basically to show support for the people around the country who are saying their prayers that the Supreme Court will find this unconstitutional, because we think it’s a bad law in all senses,” Lawrence said of the federal health care mandate.

Tom Lawrence. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

“We think that it’s an invasion on personal privacy, personal freedom. If the government can tell us what we have to buy, where does it stop? It’s a huge reach for the federal government. So if this is constitutional, then what’s next? They’re going to start telling me how to raise my kids? Raise my grandkids? Where I can live? To me, this scares me.” Lawrence concedes that governments force individuals to buy insurance—auto insurance, for example (and property insurance, with a mortgage), but those are state regulations, not federal, he says, and providers can sell auto insurance across state lines, which brings costs down. Health insurance couldn’t be bought across state lines.

Lawrence, too, is happy with his Medicare, but the new federal law “is more sweeping in my mind, because now they’re telling you, you have to buy health insurance. I would prefer the federal government stays out of the private sector.”

Jean Corra mentions the slouch toward socialism and says Mitt Romney would be her choice to stop it. As for Romney passing what even his Republican challengers call “Romneycare” in Massachusetts, the health insurance program that became the blueprint for the Obama administration’s federal version, Corra says “it worked for them,”—meaning for Massachusetts—“but it doesn’t necessarily mean it would work in every state, Number 1, let alone the whole country.”

Her husband Carl wishes he could give up Medicare, but he doesn’t have a choice. Absent the alternatives, he’s sticking with it, and paid into it his working years.

John Thomas, 75, stands at the end of the line, hoisting a huge flag with a white flagpole he rests on his thigh. “To me,” Thomas says, “it goes back to Madison and Jefferson and Jay, Hamilton. They wrote the Federalist Papers explaining what the Constitution is about. One of the things people were in great fear that the government would overreach. They argued that the Constitution had ample protections against overreaching by the federal authorities, and I think the last three years especially, but ever since Roosevelt, we’ve proved that that’s not the case. The Constitution did not have enough protections to prevent the federal government from overreaching, and this is just an example. A terrible example.”

Postscript: Tea party groups in Florida are calling on Gov. Rick Scott to veto the Florida Polytechnic University bill that would create the state’s 12th university (SB 1994), along with three other bills the movement opposes. Online news site Sunshine State News reported Tuesday that tea party groups are also asking Scott to veto an energy bill (HB 7117) that would create tax credits for clean energy programs, a measure that backers described as modest, but tea party representatives say is an overreach. “We do not believe the government should be determining the marketplace for renewable energy projects,” the group said in the Sunshine State piece.

The group is also calling for a veto of a budget conforming bill (HB 5301) that was controversial because it will require counties to pay the state Medicaid system for money that the counties contend they don’t owe. The money in dispute is over bills for treatment of Medicaid patients. Counties argue that the billing system is flawed and they don’t trust they’re being charged for the correct number of patients. That bill also includes coverage of children of state workers in the subsidized KidCare health care system. The tea party groups also want Scott to reject HB 599, which requires a $100,000 study to merge Hillsborough and Pinellas transit agencies. “The state of Florida should not be dictating to counties what they should and should not do for solving local transit issues,” the Tea Party Network said. On the Polytechnic legislation, the group said the move would dilute education funding, and the state should be encouraging the growth of private schools instead of creating new public ones.–News Service of Florida

Not quite throngish. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

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69 Responses for “Tea Party’s Medicare Beneficiaries Honk Up Palm Coast Against Federal Health Mandate”

  1. L D Ablo says:

    Politics:The religion of the feebleminded.


  2. palmcoaster says:

    @Joseyj. Yes the extreme right is against Medicare, but sure not when can make themselves millionaires by fraudulent charging for undelivered services, like Rick Scott did and is still running loose.


  3. Bob Hamby says:

    Joe A.

    How about individuals, churches, and charitable organizations voluntarily helping those in need like was done for the 1 1/2 centuries of this Republic. Over burdensome Taxes, Government Regulations, and entitlement mentality have crushed the spirit of “help thy neighbor” (why do it if the Government will take care of it). This situation has developed over a long period of time and won’t be corrected over night. But we’ve got to start somewhere by reducing the size and scope of Government and it’s control over our lives. Helping others voluntarily feels so much better than having the Government take our resources and give them to somebody else..


    • Joe A. says:

      Bob -

      I want to compliment you. You have made an intellectual and intelligent response, which I enjoyed reading. My only hopes is that with future issues, the organization you represent can have you speak on their behalf. You answered me with factual information that was not destroyed by the constant use of profanity.

      I give you a “thumbs up” and like your previous post. However, I must give a big “thumbs down” to Mr. Ruffalo for his use of profanity in the interview. It took away from the message.

      I agree that government is no the answer to all of life’s problems. At times government is the very problem. Charity not only a financial contribution, rather comes from the heart with one’s desire to help another. There are people in this community that do not have the funding for proper medical care, but desperately need it. We need to find a way to help those people. Maybe an issue much bigger for you and I. But definitely something worth looking into.


    • Nancy N. says:

      I love it when people refer to the good old days who have no true concept of what the good old days really were like. Try studying some true history – not just the fairytale version of it – and you’ll discover that the past of healthcare in this country is just like the present: the rich got the best there was and the poor got at most the very basic care or more likely nothing.


  4. Lynn Tobin says:

    After reading all the above posts, I find an astonishing absence of a key problem in this debate. WE ARE BROKE!! The USA can’t afford Obama Care period! The Supreme Court should toss out the entire law and let the Congress find some new solution. A solution where a TAX is not called a “penalty”, (to hoodwink the public to thinking it’s not going to pay more for an Obama program) and a solution that is not going to hurt the majority of the public to give health insurance to the 10% who do not have it. In a few years healthcare & social security entitlements will take up the majority of the US Gross National Product then we will be where Greece is now–unable to raise money from even China!!
    Obama Care is a nail in the coffin of the National Debt. Watch Out….


    • snapperhead says:

      the Republican solution for everything is to do nothing and let the “free” market fix everything. How’s that worked out so far? we spend double as a % of our GDP on health care than the rest of the industrialized world with inferior results. we spend more on defense than the rest of the world COMBINED! the GOP had the control of Congress for 12 years and 8 years under Bush to do something and did nothing for health insurance costs… least give the Democrats some credit for doing something about it as much as you may disagree with it. all the GOP has to offer is tax cuts for the wealthy and less regulations for Wall St. if the GOP cared as much for people when they’re living as much as they do for the unborn they’d be much better off as a governing body. Pro life my a$$…the people that cheered at the debates for executions and letting people die who have no health insurance should be ashamed to call themselves a Pro Life party.


  5. palmcoaster says:

    @Lynn Tobin. Did you oppose then (the same way you oppose then Uniiversal Health Care System for all
    now) when Bush lying about WMD got us into these useless wars going on ten years so far costing us trillions and trillions and thousands of lives? What a farce, to benefit the oil barons and war suppliers like Halliburton, Black Water and others.This President should have already stop these wars and take care of its people instead and the Supreme Court should stay out of the Obama Health Care law passed.


    • Lynn Tobin says:

      Palm Coaster….No I did not oppose Bush when he went into Iraq. You seem for forget that the CIA and many Democrats believed that WMD DID exist in Iraq. Were there Weapons of Mass Destruction? NO, but lets not confuse the expenditure of money for national defense with a new social welfare program. The difference is that: one, Defense, protects our freedoms. The other Obama Care takes away our freedoms!! If this law was so wonderful, why did Congress need to pass it in the middle of the night without reading it?! Yes,I am sorry that billions were spent on the Iraq War….the nation was conned into believing those weapons existed. Lets not get conned into spending more billions we DO NOT HAVE!!


  6. Jessie Christ says:

    I think alot of you have missed the underlying issue with the Health Care law. It was written by the big Insurers to benefit the big Insurers. Forcing people to accept health care or pay a penalty only guarantees that the “free market” insurance corporations will post huge gains in profit. This isn’t Socialism, this is cronyism and paid for politics.

    Furthermore, for those of you who love to throw out the Obama’s a socialist line of crap, the basis for socialism is that the government owns everything and that goods are distributed based on need, not greed. What exactly has Obama done to take away your house, your car, your boat, your t.v. etc? What has he done to make the CEO’s compensation equal to kid who takes your order at McDonalds? The correct answer to both is NOTHING! Don’t buy the Fox News rhetoric.


  7. Anonymous says:

    Is this what the conservative extreme right and the Tea Party demonstrating by Kohl’s want to continuo happening to those with no health insurance in our country?:
    Then we are quick to go to war to defend human rights of citizens in foreign countries…


  8. palmcoaster says:

    Is this what the conservative extreme right and the Tea Party demonstrating by Kohl’s want to continuo happening to those with no health insurance in our country?:
    Then we are quick to go to war to defend human rights of citizens in foreign countries…


  9. Student says:

    I’m from the Netherlands originally. There they have “state-controlled mandatory health insurance” for long-term treatment and obligatory health insurance, with private health insurance companies, for regular/short-term treatment (hmmm, the “state-controlled” part must sound VERY scary to Americans). The Dutch and the Netherlands are doing fine. The country is doing fine and so are its people. The country is not broke. Yes, it is also suffering from a recession, unemployment stands at 4.3% for 2011 (lower than the US) and 10% lives below the poverty line (lower than the US, see and FYI the poverty line in Europe is about $28,000 as opposed to $22,000 in the US), but GDP growth stands at 1.5% for 2011 (similar to the US). And for your information, I know absolutely NOBODY in the Netherlands that has gone bankrupt over medical expenses. Absolutely nobody.
    From on the 2006 health care reform in the Netherlands:
    “The Netherlands has introduced a new system of health care insurance based on risk equalization through a risk equalization pool. In this way, a compulsory insurance package is available to all citizens at affordable cost without the need for the insured to be assessed for risk by the insurance company. Indeed, health insurers are now willing to take on high risk individuals because they receive compensation for the higher risks”
    (although, if you read further, there are concerns raised about market-based competition – as the Netherlands has a mixed system now, as opposed to before 2006, when it really only had a state-run system).

    And, also for your information, the Netherlands is NOT a socialist country. It’s a pretty solid capitalist system, though balanced with a good social system. Please people, dare to expand your horizon, look beyond your own border, stop thinking in left and right terms, and please turn off Fox News. Some stuff works here, some stuff works in other countries; maybe, just maybe, if you combine good ideas you end up with better solutions…?

    And it takes time to build a system like this, that’s true. For instance, I was born into this “Dutch system”, and maybe therefore have a different mindset: that system allowed me to have good health care, a good education, a good life (not wealthy, but good: happy and safe), so I don’t mind paying the taxes I have to pay once I started working. You have to pay it forward. My taxes are for the less lucky, the less healthy and our society’s children, And, god forbid, at some point in the future I might be one of those less lucky or less healthy, and I’ll be grateful for all those others paying taxes. So yes, in the beginning it might feel “you’re paying for everyone else”, but once pretty much everyone has been affected by the system (accidents, child birth, old age, cancer, heart attacks… I think this pretty much covers 100% of the population), attitudes will start changing.

    Americans take individualism too far. In the end we are part of a society, we have a responsibility to take care of each other. Anything else is sub-human.


    • Lynn Tobin says:

      Student! I would like to know where you will be getting a job? If in the Netherlands, great! If you will be looking here, as ,many students do, after graduation, it is a reflection of the fact that the USA has the greatest ability for success for an individual in the world! Part of the success is dependent on the fact that many jobs are available here due to an economy that allows business to thrive like no where else in the world. Also individuals are NOT taxed to the hilt for social programs like state controlled mandatory health insurance. Remember also, we have a much, MUCH larger population that the Netherlands. Covering your population is much easier than in the USA, with its 350 million people and 10 million illegal immigrants that also take services from tax payers. You are comparing apples and turnips….it’s an unfair comparison. Perhaps you should be comparing the Netherlands with California…California, by the way is going bankrupt even without Obama Care!!


  10. palmcoaster says:

    @Student…Kudos!! Thank you for your description about Health Care for All aka Universal Health Care = Obamacare. Works in the rest of the world, why not here. Just shift our trillions from policing the world and use it to take care of our own first.


  11. Jaco says:

    Forgetting Obamacare and who came up with it for a moment…

    Our Health care system is tied to your employer. Employers are very unlikely to switch since the headaches involved (employees upset, paperwork, etc.) make it not worth the effort, I know this personally from talking to our CFO. In my state only ONE insurance company has a maternity rider for personal plans so it is a myth that you are in control of your health care, or even that there is competition since in order to switch plans you have to quit your job.

    Now let’s imagine for a moment that tomorrow you found you had cancer. You began to take treatments but fell ill and as a result lost your job. Since you have no job, paying your mortgage and having food for the kids is a primary concern, so the biggest expense you can no longer afford is the Cobra health care plan.

    Since pre-existing conditions are an excuse for not covering someone you can no longer get insurance with anyone else.

    Does this seem like the best health care system? I am not saying we need “Obamacare” but our current system is unacceptable. At a minimum removing the “preexisting conditions” clause, and limiting profit-to-expense ratio or rate hikes on ill people is a must.


  12. palmcoaster says:

    @ L. Tobin. Probably student is here just doing that… studying. Something that is totally unaffordable for American students thanks to the system in place deserving of your loath. A system that will worsen with time, unless the extreme conservationist is defeated. Forget about California being bankrupt our whole country is right now. Regarding your proceed of the dead horse beating called Illegal Immigrants and the invented tax payers cost for them, is BS. What is really costly to us are the refugees programs legally imported on our pockets with all expenses paid and remaining as such for their whole life if needed. Most sponsored by churches and forced funded by us.
    Exemption made when as many never integrate end up killing scores of us out of inadaptation rage and as thank you gesture, as reported:


  13. Jessie Christ says:

    I had a very long discussion with a compliance officer for an Insurance company regarding Obamacare this past weekend. He’s a friend of a friend. This is what he told me, “Obamacare failed us (the insurance companies) because it’s opt-out penalty it too low and healthy people will gladly pay the meager fee.” He went on to say, “The only way Insurers can continue to make gains in profitability is to get the healthy 18 to 26 year old people into the insurance pool. We can’t possibly continue to make what we’re making with an aging insurance base that constantly needs medical attention.” I asked him what role the insurers had in shaping the Obamacare plan. “We had our hands in every single aspect of the policy, it was definitely designed by us, to benefit us. It’s just a shame that Obama’s people ruined it by make the penalty too low.”

    Needless to say, Obamacare is not Socialism, it’s about corporate greed and paid for politicians working together to create bigger profit for both. Obama is not a Socialist, that would mean that all people would have their needs taken care of, not just the CEO’s of the biggest donor companies. Both sides are playing us like fools! United we stand, divided we fall……… the greedy politicans and corporations.


    • Lynn Tobin says:

      I think any notion of “corporate greed” is stupid. Corporations are in business to make money PERIOD! Apple has more cash than most countries in the world. Does that make them greedy??? NO that makes them GOOD! Apple makes products that people want and profit is what makes the world go round. Without profit (you think it is Greed) we would be unable to get taxes from business, employ people and have a good economy that raises everyone’s life. Corporations SHOULD be pushing to make a profit to make money for shareholders. It is corporations that fund most pension funds and annuities. People who go on about corporate greed are uninformed about the US economy in general and how it works. I’m all for corporations making the most money possible. Im all for people making as much money as possible. If you think it is wrong, just look up why Communism failed….no corporate greed there!! Result….everyone was poor! * except the politicians


  14. Jessie Christ says:

    Lynn Tobin, let me first say that I am not against Corporate profitability, shareholder return on investment, and economic growth. As a Business Administration major from UCF, I understand how the economy works locally, countrywide, and globally .

    What I am against, as is what the Bible is against, is GREED! You know, where someone feels the need to build themselves a gold mansion to park their gold Rolls Royce in, so they can have their staff serve their dinner on their gold china with gold utensils while they continually cut employee benefits and squeeze more out of them to provide a bigger pot of gold for themselves. Look at what your heroes from Enron and your boy Bernie Madoff did. They made millions a year, but it wasn’t enough because they were GREEDY. They had to take more. Just like the big insurers are doing today. Just like the big oil companies are doing today. Just like Monsanto is doing today. And so on.

    Also, in the last 5 years more companies have eliminated 401k matching and Health Insurance contributions while demanding fewer employees do more to make up for the other employees layoffs. All the while a majority of these businesses continue to post their biggest profits ever year after year. While in your naive mind, that may be smart business, it’s unethical, unnecessary, and most of all, immoral. And it doesn’t make the economy any better. Trickle down economics is crap. Look at Obama’s stimulus/bailout of the big banks and car manufacturers. Did that help average joes anywhere? Maybe Detroit (you know, the bankrupt city in Michigan) but not here.

    And don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with hard work, but why does a CEO deserve $13 million dollars a year paycheck PLUS bonus, when their average profit earning employee gets less than 1% of that income? Heck, the majority of the employees get less than .5% of that paycheck. And that’s not even taking into consideration the third world countries that the corporations pay sub-substandard wages to while dumping toxic shat in their rivers and land.

    And before you start your socialism/marxism/communism rant toward me, I do not for one second believe that everyone should make the same pay. Obviously the assembly line worker does not go out and make the sales which drive the demand and does not deserve the same pay as the manager who has to staff and run the operation to meet that demand. With that said, there is a realistic proportion to Executive pay that is accepted in every other country but the US. Why? GREED! We live in a country that has accepted greed as a standard, when it should be the other way around.

    Bravo Lynn, you have played right into the hands of corporate owned American politics. Bravo!

    And don’t get me started on Wall Street and how they can continually get monumental bonuses while stock portfolio’s, IRA’s, Mutual Funds, property values slide further down in my accounts…..


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