Sen. Jim DeMint called on congressional leaders to scrap the entire healthcare reform effort and start over, voicing his opposition to the latest floated compromise — a co-op alternative that would negate some of the uproar over an affordable government-run insurance option.

Town hall meetings across the country have brought out conservatives concerned about increased federal bureaucracy and, most notably, fringe elements intent on fanning misconceptions and false rumors about reform efforts. But DeMint (R-S.C.) was preaching to the choir at a Daniel Island community meeting on Monday.

DeMint has been an outspoken national foil for the Democratic healthcare plan. His first line of attack Monday targeted government incompetence. DeMint highlighted the best of the federal follies, including the Katrina aftermath and a variety of perpetually-struggling programs, in his prognosis that government-run healthcare would be poorly managed and financially disastrous.

“There’s not too many (federal programs) you can find and say, ‘That’s a model of efficiency,'” DeMint said. “I don’t want our hospitals run by Amtrak.”

But, minutes later, he said this new inept federal program would threaten the livelihood of the insurance industry, much the way that government intervention in the car industry has auto companies worried about competing with Uncle Sam. Supporters of a government option see this kind of competition as the best chance to cut insurance and healthcare costs.

Recognizing opposition from DeMint and others, Democratic leaders have seemed open to the independently managed co-op proposal as an alternative, but DeMint remained dismissive of the compromise.

“We just need to get them to stop and start over,” he said.

The crowd Monday was anxious to talk about “death panels” and the “sinister” Obama administration, but they also were eager for alternatives to the Democratic plan. DeMint has offered a handful of bills in opposition, including tax credits for individuals not covered by their employers. He says that it would encourage workers to look beyond what their bosses offer them. The DeMint plan also hinges on opening up competition across state lines. Each state currently has its own coverage requirements, creating a disparity in costs.

“There’s nothing that says there shouldn’t be a national model,” he said.

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