Republicans Want Their Congressmen to Forgo Taxpayer-Funded Health Care

Could save us $2.4 million if anti-Obamacare pols opt out

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Eliminating the scourge of government-subsidized health insurance starts at home, and Republican voters (not to mention progressive activists) want Republican members of Congress to forgo the taxpayer-funded health care they're entitled to as federal employees. The Huffington Post's Sam Stein estimates this could save the government $2.4 million, as we the people fork over $700 a month for every lawmaker with a family plan.

AFSCME President Gerald McEntee told Stein that if GOP members take the health plan, they're hypocrites. A poll from Public Policy Polling shows Americans agree: 53 percent say anti-Obamacare pols should refuse government-sponsored insurance. The push for Republican legislators to opt out has gained steam ever since incoming Rep. Andy Harris made headlines when he asked, aghast, why he'd have to go a whole month without health insurance after being sworn in.

  • Bleeding-Heart Liberals' Hearts Even Bleed for Republicans, Tom Jensen notes at Public Policy Polling. "Democrats are actually the most supportive of anti-health care Congressmen taking their health care, with 40% saying they should accept it to 46% who think they should decline. But Republicans and independents- who put these folks in office in the first place- strongly think they should refuse their government provided health care. GOP voters hold that sentiment by a 58/28 margin and indys do 56/27."
  • An Opportunity for Democrats, Jensen continues, to "create tension between the newly elected officials and the Tea Partiers who put them there by highlighting the disconnect between the freshmen Republicans' rhetoric and their actions... Their base clearly expects them to act in a way consistent with their stated opposition to government provided health care...If Tea Party activists continue to get let down by the Republicans they elect it increases the possibility for them to shift their energies toward third party conservative candidacies in 2012."
  • Put Up or Shut Up, Democrats Demand, Igor Volsky reports at Think Progress. "Rep. Joe Crowley (D-NY) began circulating a letter among his Democratic colleagues calling on Harris and other members of Congress who want to repeal the new health care law to forgo their own government health care plans. So far just two incoming Republican freshmen — Rep.-elect Mike Kelly (PA) and Rep.-elect Bobby Schilling (IL) — have agreed. ...  New members have 60 days (after being sworn-in) to select an insurance plan from the federal health insurance exchange... Returning members can opt-out of the government-sponsored health insurance coverage until the end of the open-enrollment period, December 13th."
  • Pouncing on Harris, Julie Rovner reports at NPR. Rovner says Americans United for Change has already launched a radio ad calling Harris on his health care hypocrisy. "Will any of it work to change the trend of public opinion?" Rovner asks. "Probably not. But at least it’s changed the talking points for a while."
  • Harris: I Never Said I 'Wanted' Insurance, the lawmaker told Harris told that "It was a simple question any employee should ask: 'Oh, and by the way, how do I get my health insurance to be seamless?'... I just wanted an answer -- is this gap true. Yes, because of the pay period. Can we pre-buy the coverage? And the answer was no. I didn't even say I want that coverage. The words 'I want it' didn't come out of my mouth."
  • This Isn't About Obamacare, Republicans tell Danny Yadron at The Wall Street Journal. Yardron writes that the debate is more complicated than Democrats are making it seem--one over "how much Washington should get involved in health insurance for those employed in the private sector. Lawmakers, by contrast, take home a salary from the federal government. Most House members get $174,000 a year. 'This has nothing to with ObamaCare,'" presumptive House Speaker John Boehner's spokesman said. Like Nancy Pelosi and millions of Americans, Boehner "receives health coverage through his employer.”
  • Meanwhile, Dems Are Calling the GOP's Bluff on Repeal, The New Republic's Jonathan Chait writes. Calling it a "pure legislative stunt," Chait nevertheless approves of Rep. Gary Ackerman's push to introduce measures that would repeal the most popular parts of the health care law. "Republicans are holding votes on repealing just the unpopular aspects of the bill. Why not vote on the popular parts too? Ackerman's proposal is more coherent: you can have an individual mandate without banning discrimination against preexisting conditions. But the Republican proposals to eliminate the mandate without getting rid of the discrimination ban is a recipe for disaster."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.