Newt Gingrich’s Health Group Pretends Health Bill Exempts Members Of Congress From Public Option

newt-gingrichNewt Gingrich’s for-profit Center For Health Transformation is sending around a petition email asking “whether members of Congress writing such legislation would actually enroll themselves in a new government-run healthcare option.” “Please sign below if you agree with Congressman Fleming that members of Congress who vote for a government-run healthcare plan should participate in the plan themselves and you agree with us to broaden this to include congressional staff,” the Center asks:

As health legislation continues to be debated, one has to ask whether members of Congress writing such legislation would actually enroll themselves in a new government-run healthcare option. Current draft healthcare legislation exempts members of Congress from the public plan option, allowing them to keep their existing plans.

Congressman John Fleming (LA-04) is asking this very question noting that public servants should be accountable and responsible for what they are advocating. He has created a resolution calling on members of Congress who support a public option to enroll themselves and encourage their colleagues to do the same. We support this resolution and broaden it to include congressional staff as well.

Of course, the Tri Committee discussion draft in the House does not specifically exempt federal employees — who receive coverage through the Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) Program — from enrolling in the new public plan. Rather, the legislation treats the American government — the largest employer in the country — like any other large employer: it can enroll its employees in the Exchange (where they can choose a public health insurance option) after a period of 2 years.

From a logistical point of view and to those concerned about continuity of care, moving the 160 million Americans who receive employer-sponsored benefits into new plans would be a costly nightmare. The goal is to reduce immediate shifts but still preserve choice. For this reason, the House Tri Committee health care bill phases in participation in the Exchange when it goes into operation in 2013:

– Individuals and employers with 10 or fewer employees in 2013
– Individuals and employers with 20 or fewer employees in 2014
– Individuals and employers with more than 20 employees in 2015

On the whole, this argument is particularly disingenuous. Republicans are arguing that the public option would eliminate employer-sponsored coverage while undermining provisions designed to allow Americans to keep what the have. During mark-up of the HELP Committee’s legislation Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Tom Coburn (R-OK) went so far as to introduce amendments that would require members of Congress (and Congressional staff) to enroll in the public option.