Obamacare opponents stage protest in Anchorage

Tegan Hanlon
Bob Hallinen

Over honks from passing vehicles, Ric Koller shouted a, "come on you knuckleheads," to the line of Obamacare opponents waving signs in Anchorage on Friday afternoon.

Koller, 60, was echoing the term used by Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, in campaign ads airing across the state to describe the tea-party backed House members who are "holding the country hostage over the health care law."

It's the Affordable Care Act that Koller, with the Anchorage Tea Party, and a dozen or so others from the Alaska Libertarian Party and United for Liberty came to protest at the corner of East Northern Lights Boulevard and Seward Highway. They don't want the federal government's hands in the health care system.

"We're Americans and we don't like having things rammed down our throats," said Koller, who is retired and has TRICARE coverage. He's worried that his premium will increase.

Koller's sign read, "A Lot of Gov't is Non-essential -- 18%," and was joined by messages like, "Obama Ain't Your Mama" and "We Support Cruz Control."

Begich has estimated that 13,000 Alaskans, deemed "non-essential," have been placed on unpaid furlough for the past two weeks because of the government shutdown. As a state, Alaska has among the highest percentage of furloughed employees.

Begich's campaign manager, Susanne Fleek-Green, was unapologetic about the ads.

"It's not surprising for him to call obstructionists 'knuckleheads,' she said in an email. "It's frustrating to be in a second week of the shutdown with Alaska families and industries paying the price."

Michael Chambers, the vice chair of the Alaskan Libertarian Party, said the individual mandate requiring all Americans to acquire health insurance "takes away an individual's choice."

Chambers, 63, is an artist and purchases his own health insurance in the private sector. He said the government is spending too much money and he'd like to see Obamacare defunded.

"We don't feel it's a matter of health care, we feel it's a matter of control," he said.

Reach Tegan Hanlon at thanlon@adn.com or 257-4589.