Responding to Rep.-elect Andy Harris’ (R-MD) hypocritical demand for government-sponsored health coverage last month, Rep. Joe Crowley (D-NY) circulated a letter among his colleagues calling on Harris and other members of Congress who want to repeal President Obama’s health care law to forgo their own government health care plans. At least four GOP congressmen have already announced they will turn down their congressional benefits, and a recent poll found that a majority 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.” In an interview with the New York Times published yesterday, Rep.-elect Joe Walsh (R-IL) has said he too will forgo government health coverage:
And get this: he’s turned down the usual congressional health care, pension and retirement packages.
“I don’t think congressmen should get pensions or cushy health care plans,” he said. His wife is not exhilarated with the latter decision; she has a pre-existing medical condition and is now forced to hunt for a plan.
Walsh’s decision to forgo government coverage is noteworthy because it is extremely unusual. Of the eighty-plus incoming Republican congressmen, all of whom ran campaigns railing against the Affordable Care Act, and the hundreds of incumbent GOP lawmakers, ThinkProgress has been able to identify only five who are willing to put their money where their mouth is and turn down government health care for themselves. This translates to just 2 percent of the 242 GOP House members of the 112th Congress. Moreover, those who have turned down their congressional health plans are either covered by other government programs, such as veterans benefits, or are wealthy, like Walsh, and can afford to pay for their own coverage.
Walsh’s wife, however, may have a hard time finding coverage no matter what she’s willing to pay due to her preexisting condition. If only Congress has passed some sort of law barring insurance companies from discriminating against people with preexisting conditions…