Republicans on the campaign trail denounce Obama’s health-care reforms as a virtual threat to the Republic. It’s “socialized medicine,” “a job killer,” “a government takeover of health care.” All the Republican candidates for president promise to repeal it, and Republican legislators are virtually united in trying to do so.
Ironically, most of these same politicians enjoy the benefits of government health care — and don’t complain about it. While a handful of House freshmen announced they wouldn’t partake of the federal health care plan for legislators, the vast majority happily signed up. Freshman U.S. Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.) garnered national headlines for complaining that his government health insurance wouldn’t kick in for 30 days after he was sworn in — even after he had campaigned on repealing “Obamacare” for everyone else.
The federal health-care plan for legislators is a pretty nice deal, with the federal government offering a broad array of plans while paying an average of $700 per month — about 75 percent of the cost. When the cost of the plans goes up, the government subsidy goes up. No member can be refused because of a pre-existing condition. Meanwhile, for the rest of us, more and more employers don’t offer health care at all — and those that do are demanding that employees pay an ever-increasing percentage of the premiums and co-pays. And it is Obama’s reforms that these legislators want to repeal that require insurance companies to cover everyone regardless of pre-existing illnesses.
The Republican presidential contenders also display something of a contrast between rhetoric and practice.
Libertarian Ron Paul happily takes his congressional, government supplied health-care benefits and subsidies. When asked whether it would be hypocritical to take government subsidized health care as a member of Congress but repeal it for everyone else, Paul was honest enough to say “could be.”
Mitt Romney refuses to reveal what kind of coverage he and his family have. That may well be because he doesn’t want to admit that he’s enjoying the benefits of the health-care reforms he passed in Massachusetts that became the template for Obama’s. As a 64-year-old unemployed man with a wife with a serious pre-existing condition, Romney exists in one of the only states that offers a choice of 41 state-regulated health-care plans, requires insurance companies to cover those with a pre-existing conditions and limits how much they can raise premiums because of age or condition.
Former Sen. Rick Santorum has a private plan. With his young daughter fighting a serious illness, he’d have a hard time getting insurance at any price if Obama’s reforms were repealed. One of the first parts of the reforms to go into effect requires companies to cover children up to age 19 regardless of pre-existing conditions.
At 68, Newt Gingrich enjoys Medicare, the government’s single-payer plan, which he supplements with a Blue Cross-Blue Shield plan. Medicare is the plan the Republicans tried to dismantle last year in the House. They would turn it into a fixed premium that would pay for less care over time.
Why is government subsidized and organized health care good for legislators and not for the rest of us? Why should they be guaranteed coverage despite pre-existing conditions? Why should Newt happily take Medicare and denounce “socialized medicine”?
Perhaps candidates who are millionaires don’t understand the challenges most Americans face. Or perhaps their ideology blinds them to their hypocrisy.
Rev. Jesse L. Jackson is founder and president of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition.