House Democrats are exploiting an embarrassing moment for the GOP earlier this week to highlight the hypocrisy of Republicans’ relentless opposition to health care reform.
Four members — Joe Crowley (NY), Linda Sanchez (CA), Donna Edwards (MD), and Tim Ryan (OH) — are rounding up signatures for a letter to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Speaker-to-be John Boehner, encouraging them to press their members to refuse their federal health benefits based on the same principles underlying their opposition to health care reform.
“It is amazing that your members would complain about not having health care coverage for a few weeks, even after campaigning to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which will help provide coverage to millions of Americans who find themselves without health insurance for months or even years,” the letter reads. “It begs the question: how many members of the Republican conference will be forgoing the employer-subsidized FEHBP coverage and experiencing what so many Americans find themselves forced to face? If your conference wants to deny millions of Americans affordable health care, your members should walk that walk.”
It’s a new incarnation of a game Democrats played during the fight over the public option. Back then, Republicans opposed the public option as “government health care,” and Dems were happy to point out that hypocrisy by asking them to vote to abolish Medicare. (They didn’t.)
It’s a little gimmicky, but it makes the point well. You can read the whole letter below.
Dear Senator McConnell and Representative Boehner:
We were surprised to read in today’s article “GOP frosh: Where’s My Health Care?” in Politico that some of your incoming members are unhappy with the health benefits they are eligible to purchase under the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) - particularly the fact that there is a delay before benefits take effect. Ironically, this is the same predicament millions of Americans currently find themselves in.
It is amazing that your members would complain about not having health care coverage for a few weeks, even after campaigning to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which will help provide coverage to millions of Americans who find themselves without health insurance for months or even years.
We also find it interesting that members of the Republican conference would have no problem taking away health coverage from hard-working Americans, but expect expanded coverage for themselves and their families. The system set up by the Affordable Care Act will allow Americans to choose the plan that works best for them from a variety of private insurance plans, just like the FEHB program that members of Congress are now able to access. The uninsured, small-business employees, and the self-employed will now be able to benefit from this same choice and competition.
It begs the question: how many members of the Republican conference will be forgoing the employer-subsidized FEHBP coverage and experiencing what so many Americans find themselves forced to face? If your conference wants to deny millions of Americans affordable health care, your members should walk that walk. You cannot enroll in the very kind of coverage that you want for yourselves, and then turn around and deny it to Americans who don’t happen to be Members of Congress. It is worth noting that in 2011, the Federal government will pay $10,503.48 of the premiums for each member of Congress with a family policy under the commonly-selected Blue Cross standard plan.
It is important for the American people to know whether the members of Congress and members-elect who have called for the repeal of health insurance reform are going to stand by their opposition by opting out of the care available to them at the expense of hard-working taxpayers. We look forward to your response in the coming days about exactly how many of the members in the Republican conference will be declining their taxpayer-supported health benefits.
Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight, and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at email@example.com.