Last month, then-congressman-elect Andy Harris (R-MD) set off a firestorm when he demanded to know why his government-sponsored health care would not kick in until four weeks after taking office. Harris, who ran on a platform of repealing health care reform, was roundly criticized for decrying government playing a role in delivering health care to the American public, then demanding his own government-subsidized coverage once he took office.
Following this episode, Rep. Joe Crowley (D-NY) sent a letter to his colleagues calling on Harris and other congressmen who want to repeal health care reform to also forgo their own government-sponsored health care plans. Over the next month, five Republicans stepped up to the challenge: Reps. Joe Walsh (R-IL), Tim Walberg (R-MI), Bill Johnson (R-OH), Bobby Schilling (R-IL), and Mike Kelly (R-PA).
The most recent congressman to say he will forgo government-sponsored health care is Rep. Frank Guinta (R-NH). In an interview today, Guinta told ThinkProgress that he is “not taking the health care portion of the benefits”:
TP: Do you think you’ll be voting to repeal that [health care reform]?
GUINTA: Yeah, I am going to vote to repeal. I don’t believe the legislation is constitutional, first of all. Secondly, I think what the people of our country are looking for is a different alternative to making health care more affordable. So that will be the goal and certainly want to work with every member of Congress to make that happen?
TP: Do you think you’ll also be rejecting government-sponsored health care for yourself? I know a few members of Congress like Mike Kelly, Adam Kinzinger [editor's note: Kinzinger has note made this promise. Illinois congressmen Bobby Schilling and Joe Walsh have], some others have said ‘I’m against government-sponsored health care, government-subsidized health care, and so I’m going to lead the way and not take it myself.
TP2: He’s referring to the Federal Employees Benefits Plan that all members receive.
GUINTA: Well, I think there’s a difference between the benefit package and dictating to every American that they have to purchase health care. That being said, I am not taking the health care portion of the benefits.
TP: You won’t be taking the health care portion?
It is worth noting that all six GOPers who are opting out of government-sponsored health care are freshmen, many of whom enjoyed significant Tea Party support. No previous Republican incumbents have stepped forward and offered to give up their own government-subsidized health care coverage, despite the fact that 172 of the 180 GOPers in the 111th Congress signed a petition to repeal health care reform in its entirety, including government subsidies for those who can’t afford it.