Republicans took control of Congress promising to repeal the Affordable Care Act. However, at the same time they rip the bill as some sort of “monstrosity” of “socialism,” nearly every Republican lawmaker eagerly accepts government health benefits afforded to them as members of Congress. As ThinkProgress has noted, the congressional health benefits mirror the health plan passed by Democrats for the country: individuals choose private plans regulated under an exchange, and are given a subsidy to help them pay for their plan. As federal employees, lawmakers are given an average of $700-a-month in taxpayer money for their health insurance.
A select few pro-repeal lawmakers have refused to accept government health benefits for themselves to try to stay consistent in their opposition to government health care. Out of the few who have eschewed government health plans for themselves, many are either on government benefit plans from their service in state government or the military. Others are independently wealthy, like Rep. Mike Kelly (R-PA), who owns a large car dealership or Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL), an investment banker.
More critically, every single Republican contacted by ThinkProgress has refused to deny government health benefits to their staff. Congressional staff members are granted the same taxpayer-subsidized, government-regulated health plans available to members. Unlike lawmakers, staff are often middle-class Americans who are not independently wealthy and need regular coverage in case they get sick. While lawmakers and their staff work ruthlessly to repeal health reform — thus denying coverage to over 30 million Americans and helping insurance companies continue outrageous, life-threatening abuses to their customers — pro-repeal members believe their staff should be “free to choose” quality government care:
- Rep. Mike Kelly (R-PA) accepted a challenge from Rep. Joe Crowley (D-NY) to refuse government health care. However, after being contacted by ThinkProgress, Kelly’s press secretary Julia Thornton said Kelly is still providing government health care to his staff, telling them they are “free to choose” a taxpayer subsidized plan if they wish.
- Rep. Chris Gibson (R-NY) has said that he is refusing government health care for himself. Stephanie Valle, the communications director for Gibson told ThinkProgress that Gibson’s staff are allowed government health care. Valle told us,” they are federal employees, so if they and their families choose to elect to do so, then yes.”
- Rep. Rich Nugent (R-FL) has said he is refusing government health care for himself because he doesn’t believe he deserves a special “privilege” just because he is a member of Congress. He explained to a local paper, “why should I — why should I — get a cost savings because I just got elected to the United States House of Representatives?” However, after being contacted by ThinkProgress, Nugent’s spokesman Harrison Lewis said that the congressman is still giving the privilege of taxpayer-funded health benefits to his staff. Lewis said Nugent told him specifically that “he doesn’t want to impose his feelings about this on anyone,” referring to his staff.
In January, ThinkProgress spoke to several lawmakers about repealing, or at least denying, government health care for their own staff. Every single one we spoke to, including Rep. Frank Guinta (R-NH), Rep. Kenny Marchant (R-TX), and Rep. John Runyon (R-NJ), refused. Guinta’s press secretary followed up with ThinkProgress later and confirmed Guinta’s decision to give the choice of government health care to his employees:
FANG: Do you think it’s hypocritical to give your employees a choice whether they want this subsidized, highly regulated health care, while repealing it for everyone else?
GUINTA: Well my goal and my focus and my attention is to represent people in New Hampshire the way they would like me to represent them. What New Hampshire has said is that they don’t support this health care legislation. They would like less expensive and constitutional legislation so that’s the way I’m going to represent New Hampshire. [...]
FANG: What about your staff members? Are they going to be rejecting government subsidized healthcare?
MARCHANT: That’ll be their individual choice. It’ll be offered to them and it’ll be their choice.
KEYES: What about your staff, do you know if they’ll be on that?
RUNYON: I don’t know. [...]
If Republicans are eventually successful with their repeal campaign, data from Harvard Medical School estimates that about 32,000 people will die every year from lack of health insurance. Tens of millions will be denied care by their own insurance companies because of so-called preexisting conditions.
If there are any pro-repeal lawmakers refusing government health care for themselves and their staff, please let us know. Every single member contacted by ThinkProgress has either not responded or said that their staff has the option of taking government-funded care.