This morning, as the House of Representatives begins debating H.R. 2 Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act, the majority of Republicans in the House will still be receiving insurance through the Federal Employees’ Health Benefits Plan — a federal exchange which offers subsidized coverage to federal government workers, including members of Congress. According to a ThinkProgress analysis, seven, or just three percent of all the Republicans in the House have agreed to give up their insurance while they vote to repeal coverage for some 32 million Americans. “Because I think that when you have Americans that are struggling, why should I get a cost saving because I just got elected to the United States House of Representatives?,” Rep. Richard Nugent’s (R-FL) — one of the seven Republicans — explained two weeks ago. Rep. Bobby Schilling (R-IL) agreed, saying that Congress “shouldn’t have anything better than the American people.”
But the majority of the GOP still sees nothing wrong in purchasing tax-payer subsidized insurance while trying to deny coverage to the taxpayer. In fact, a number of Republicans are defending their right to stay insured by citing the very arguments put forward by proponents of reform:
– REP. VICKY HARTZLER (R-MO): Freshman Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler (R-MO) said she would not forgo her congressional health care plan. Hartzler spokesman Steve Walsh explained the congresswoman’s decision because “The issue was and always has been government-RUN health care …not government providing PRIVATE insurance to its employees.” [PolitcoMo, 1/7/11]
— REP. AARON SCHOCK (R-IL): Congressman Aaron Schock (R-IL) said he continue to receive health care through his congressional health plan, noting that by doing so would help reduce the costs for everyone else. “So I think it’s kind of interesting how people make such a big deal out of the health care coverage we have, which is not bad by any means. But I haven’t given it much thought because quite frankly I think I’m helping out the institution by lowering the risk pool for some of my older guys,” he said. Later, Schock added that the Affordable Care Act was “completely different” than the type of coverage Members of Congress receive. [Think Progress, 1/7/11]
— REP. MICHAEL GRIMM (R-NY): Freshman Congressman Michael Grimm (R-NY) rejected claims that it was hypocritical for him to receive health coverage that provided the same consumer protections he was trying to repeal for others. “What am I, not supposed to have health care?” Later, he said the reason to have coverage is “practicality. I’m not going to become a burden for the state because I don’t have health care and, God forbid I get into an accident and I can’t afford the operation…That can happen to anyone.” [Hotline On Call, 1/6/11]
Indeed, by 2014, uninsured Americans will be able to enroll in “PRIVATE insurance” through a series of state-based exchanges that will attempt to attract younger and healthier enrollees — like Schock — who could bring down premiums for the entire risk pool. The mandate will require these individuals to purchase insurance so that they don’t “become a burden for the state” once they require medical attention.
The seven Republicans who have opted out of their Congressinal plans include: Richard Nugent (FL), Sandy Adams (FL), Bill Johnson (OH), Mike Kelly (PA), Bobby Schilling (IL), Joe Walsh (IL) and Daniel Webster (FL), and Rep. Frank Guinta (R-NH).