INDIANAPOLIS — Supporters and opponents of the federal health care law brought their national battle to Indianapolis on Monday.
Heritage Foundation President Jim DeMint was scheduled to rally conservatives against it Monday night, while the liberal Americans for United Change organized a Statehouse news conference to seek support for the law earlier in the day.
The debate began when President Barack Obama's health care law was first crafted in 2009 and has continued through its implementation. As the key Oct. 1 deadline for opening state-based health insurance exchanges approaches, the rhetoric has escalated.
Congress must pass another "continuing resolution" by the end of next month to keep the government operating, although any measure approved by the Republican-led U.S. House would face little chance of success in the Democrat-led U.S. Senate.
DeMint, a former South Carolina Republican senator, has spent the past week touring nine cities, arguing that "de-funding" the health care law is the best option.
U.S. Rep. Marlin Stutzman, a Republican who represents northeast Indiana, called for defunding the law at the start of the month. Since returning to his district during August recess, he said residents have told him they will accept any vehicle for blocking the upheaval in coverage caused by the law.
"I hear a lot of people saying 'We don't care how you stop it, just stop it,'" said Stutzman, who was scheduled to attend DeMint's town hall meeting.
But Democratic state lawmakers insisted again that the law would provide a critical service for Indiana's many uninsured residents.
State Rep. Ed DeLaney of Indianapolis and other lawmakers have pushed for Indiana to be one of a handful of Republican-led states to expand Medicaid coverage under the law. Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane, of Anderson, also attended the Monday news conference.
He pointed out that neighboring states which do approve an expansion would reap the benefits of Indiana tax dollars.
"I tell people 'We sent the tax money to Washington so the people in Kentucky can have health insurance," DeLaney said.
Action has moved from Washington to individual states as the core of the law approaches. Health insurance exchanges are scheduled to open in states Oct. 1 and an individual mandate is set to take effect Jan. 1.
Republican Gov. Mike Pence opted to let the federal government run Indiana's exchange and has applied to expand Medicaid through the Healthy Indiana Plan, a state-run plan that would cost about as much as traditional Medicaid but offer more control to state officials.
Pence used the national spotlight last weekend while delivering the Weekly Republican Party address to lambast the federal health care law and argue that states are coming up with better options.