Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Healthcare Hypocrites-- the Day After The GOP Officially Became The Party Of Hypocrisy


I trust you've been following the campaign Blue America, Daily Kos, Americans United For Change and the Americans For America PAC cobbled together over the last couple of weeks to spotlight the gross hypocrisy of Republicans voting to repeal healthcare legislation for the constituents who pay their salaries-- and subsidize their own and their families' healthcare!-- while keeping it for themselves. Manatt Media has come up with a series of spectacular radio ads and I wish we could run them in every district in the country represented by one of these hypocrites. But we are grassroots operations and we don't have that kind of money. And when Amato went down to Palm Springs to talk with the Koch Brothers... just kiddin'.

Anyway, like I explained on Monday, a dozen sleazy GOP freshmen-- like Sandy Adams in central Florida-- are trying to weasel out of the hypocrisy charges by claiming to be eschewing government-subsidized healthcare while stealthily getting it from other sources. Adams, for example, went screeching to the media about how she turned down congressional healthcare plans and how she's not a hypocrite and then it turns out she's getting the same healthcare subsidies on her husband's plan because he's a circuit court judge. Almost all the congressmembers who turned it down have the same pathetic story as Adams.

Adams, however is one of the Members in whose district-- FL-24-- we're running our ads. People are still voting over at Daily Kos but, by far, the Member of Congress most of our donors want to see called out for hypocrisy is Paul Ryan. Maybe they read Digby's post last week about how the Wisconsin Ayn Rand devotee followed her right down the road into handout hypocrisy. They both preach against what they call "the collectivist system," but both were quick to avail themselves of the opportunities when they could. And, of course, Ryan is at it again. Although he's taken more legalistic bribes from Wall Street interests than any other politician in the history of Wisconsin, and although he voted to repeal healthcare for the needy folks in Racine, Kenosha and Janesville, he is certainly taking it himself.

Yesterday Dana Bash picked up on it for CNN, when she penned a story pointing out that not many House Republicans rejecting health benefits on principle. That's because yesterday was the day they started receiving their subsidized health care. "It's hypocritical when they all voted to undo the bill we did, to repeal the bill that we enacted-- that the president signed into law-- to provide for the first time for many Americans in 2014 access to what we as members of Congress have," employer-provided health care, Representative Joseph Crowley, D-New York, told CNN in an interview in his Capitol office.

By CNN's count there are 16 House Republicans who have turned it down, although few did so out of principle. One who did was Illinois freshman Joe Walsh who said he campaigned against it and said he wouldn't accept it.
Unlike most of Walsh's congressional colleagues who are turning down government benefits, the Illinois freshman did not have alternative health insurance, so he says he bought his own insurance coverage, which has a $5,000 deductible.

Walsh says his wife has a pre-existing condition, so insurance would not cover her. Therefore, he says they will pay for the treatment for her ailment, which he declined to disclose, out of pocket.

He says that cost is "sizeable."

"If I would of taken the congressional plan, I'd taken the group policy, and my wife would have been covered and life would have been a heck of a lot easier. But this is the pledge that I made, it's something my wife and I have thought long and hard about, and it's a principle, and it's important to both of us," Walsh said.

Representative Bobby Schilling, another GOP freshman from Illinois, is also declining coverage from the Federal Employees Health Benefit plan out of principle, saying he too ran on that promise.

Unlike Walsh, Schilling already has insurance that he will keep through his pizza parlor business back home.

But in conversations with aides to nearly all the 16 known Republicans not taking health insurance for lawmakers, most are doing so not because of philosophical opposition to government-subsidized health care, but instead because it is most practical for them.

Representative Richard Nugent, R-Florida, has COBRA with the help of his state government, since he is a retired sheriff.

Others, like Representative Bill Johnson, R-Ohio, are veterans and already receive government benefits through the Veterans Affairs department.

And some, like Representative Mike Kelly, R-Pennsylvania, and Representative Daniel Webster, R-Florida, are not accepting the congressional health care benefit because they already have insurance through their own businesses back home.

..."They all have Plan Bs," noted Democrat Joe Crowley. "The 46 million Americans who don't have insurance today don't have a Plan A."

Still-- regardless of their reasoning-- only a fraction of Republicans who voted to repeal the health care law are forgoing government-subsidized insurance for themselves.

Florida Representative Allen West, a Republican freshman elected with significant Tea Party support, is accepting the federal health care benefit. He dismisses Democratic accusations that he and other lawmakers like him are hypocrites.

West calls that Democratic "propaganda."

GOP leadership aides insist there is nothing wrong with lawmakers, including House Speaker John Boehner, accepting government-subsidized health care benefits, since the government is their employer.

"The speaker, like President Obama, Senator Harry Reid and tens of millions of other Americans, gets his health coverage through his employer. That has nothing to do with opposition to Washington Democrats' unconstitutional, job-destroying health care law," said Michael Steel, spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner.

They may be small in number, but some of Boehner's freshmen GOP colleagues disagree. They say their opposition to the health care law is in fact connected to the government-subsidized insurance offered to them.

Representative Paul Gosar, R-Arizona, is a freshman declining the federal benefits for philosophical reasons.

According to spokeswoman Stephanie Zimmerman, Gosar has a health savings account for his family, and has seen his premiums increase 30% in the last year.

Zimmerman said if Gosar were to opt in to federal health benefits, he would be able to cover his entire family for about $300 a month. Under his current plan, he has to pay approximately $1,700 a month out of pocket.

"He made a promise to his constituents that he would not take members' health benefits because he wanted to live like everyone else in his district," Zimmerman said.

This morning Nicole Sandler will be interviewing the progressive Democrat running for the Florida seat Sandy Adams won in November, Nicholas Ruiz. Like Zimmerman, Ruiz thinks the citizens of his district should have the same opportunities to buy into healthcare plans that their Member of Congress does. Where they part ways, is that Ruiz thinks everyone should be entitled to those opportunities, while Zimmerman, like Adams, thinks no one should be. Anyway, Nicole will have Nicholas on at 10:15AM (ET zone-- so 7:15 on the West Coast) and you can hear them online at If you like what you hear and would like to help Nicholas get into Congress, please consider donating here at Blue America. And Nicholas will be a live guest at Crooks and Liars this Saturday at 2pm (ET).

One more thing, something I noticed in the NY Times last night: a couple of progressive Democrats with perspectives similar to Nicholas Ruiz's, long ago said they would not take congressional healthcare until it was available to their constituents. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) was a Member of Congress for 18 years before he finally signed up last year when the bill passed. And Joe Courtney (D-CT) still hasn't taken it. He wrote about it yesterday at HuffPo:
Today, Republican Members of Congress who ran on a platform of repealing health care and patients' rights for millions of Americans officially began receiving their own Congressional health insurance. Just two weeks after their party voted unanimously to strip patient protections and affordable coverage for all Americans, all but 15 new Republican members of the 112th Congress are enrolled in a comprehensive insurance plan. Their plan is paid for with generous subsidies courtesy of the American taxpayer, and has no waiting period for pre-existing illness or disability.

Beginning today, a new Republican Member of Congress with high blood pressure, diabetes, or any chronic condition is immediately covered at the same premium cost as 8 million other federal employees. The same is true for his or her spouse and dependent children, regardless of age, gender or prior illness.

That would not be the case for millions of Americans if the GOP health care repeal bill becomes law. For 129 million men and women under the age of 65 who have pre-existing conditions, repeal of the Affordable Care Act would spell the end of protection from price and coverage discrimination that newly-covered Republican Members of Congress now enjoy.

If the Republican repeal bill were to become law, 1.2 million young Americans between ages 22 and 26 who just became eligible to stay on their parents' insurance plans will be cut loose again and sent back to the ranks of the uninsured.

But my new Republican colleagues would keep theirs.

...When I first ran for Congress in 2006, I promised the voters in my district that I would not take the Congressional health insurance plan until all Americans have access to the same coverage and protections as Members of Congress. My wife and I have kept that pledge even though our benefits cost more and provide less choice than the federal plan.

When the Affordable Care Act is fully implemented, there will be parity between elected officials and their constituents - all Americans will have the same coverage protections as the men and women they send to Washington. Indeed the Act requires Members and their staff to obtain coverage through the Act's purchasing exchange when it goes online in 2014.

For Republicans vehemently opposed to health care reform, taking generous taxpayer-funded insurance benefits just days after voting to strip protections from their constituents is outrageous. Not only did they vote to deny benefits to the people they represent, but they also voted unanimously to keep the details of their health benefits exempt from Freedom of Information laws - effectively blocking their constituents from knowing whether they accepted taxpayer-funded benefits. The hypocrisy is breathtaking.

UPDATE: Paul Ryan

This ad just came in; there are two, a straight forward one and one special for the Super Bowl (this one):

There are two ways to donate to defeat Ryan, our normal Stop Paul Ryan page and our overall health care hypocrites page

UPDATE: Arkansas

Blue Arkansas seems to have embarrassed one anti-healthcare Republican state legislator to agree to give up his own government-subsidized healthcare plan. Just one? All those right wing nuts and Blue Dog types who will do anything to screw up ordinary working families and only one is willing to back away from the hypocrisy? One? It's Kim Hammer, a former pastor and interim department store manager from Benton. And he hasn't given up his health care policy yet... but he may.

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At 9:28 AM, Blogger Jack Jodell said...

Let's just call an end to all this bullshit and make Medicare available to ALL citizens!To hell with all the insurance companies and their Republican and blue dog lackey members in Comgress!

At 11:24 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

$174,000 - Salary of a Congressional Freshman. This puts him at nearly the top 5% of all Americans. Nice that he can afford health insurance, and treatments for his wife. What about the other 95% of us?


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