Last week, responding to Rep.-elect Andy Harris’ (R-MD) hypocritical demand for government-sponsored benefits, 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 forego 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. But a new Public Policy Polling survey has found that most Americans “think incoming Congressmen who campaigned against the health care bill should put their money where their mouth is and decline government provided health care now that they’re in office”:
Only 33% think they should accept the health care they get for being a member of Congress while 53% think they should decline it and 15% have no opinion.
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.
Having campaigned on listening to the American people, the Republicans, well, seem obliged to abide. As Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) put it in a post-election speech at the Heritage Foundation — titled “Listening To The People Who Sent Us Here” — “Republicans have a plan for following through on the wishes of the American people…And, above all, it means listening to the people who sent us here. If we do all this, we will finish the job.”
But this particular job — opting out of government-sponsored insurance — still remains unfinished and supporters of reform are pressing the issue. Yesterday, Americans United for Change unveiled a radio ad asking anti- reform Republicans to “walk the walk” on health care and today Crowley revealed that 59 other House Democrats sent a letter to McConnell and Speaker-elect John Boehner (R-OH) “requesting an update on which Republican members and members-elect who have called for a repeal of the Affordable Care Act will decline their own taxpayer-subsidized health care.” Gerald McEntee, president of the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) issued a particularly strong statement, saying that members who ran against reform, but enroll in government insurance “deserve to be denounced as hypocrites.”
New members have 60 days (after being sworn-in) to select an insurance plan from the federal health insurance exchange, which will become available on the first day of the following month. Returning members can opt-out of the government-sponsored health insurance coverage until the end of the open-enrollment period, December 13th.
Meanwhile, Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY), a reform proponent, has pledged to introduce a series of bills repealing only the most popular provisions of Affordable Care Act. The effort is designed to force the GOP to put their votes where their mouths are. “This will be the big chance for Republicans to do what they’ve vowed to do,” the 13-term member said. “These bills will be their chance to at long last restore liberty and repeal the evil monster they’ve dubbed Obamacare. ”
Sam Stein does the math and estimates that Republicans could save the federal government $242 million if they forego health care for a year.