Alex Constantine - January 19, 2011
" ... Freshman Rep. Michael Grimm, R-N.Y., told reporters, 'What am I, not supposed to have health care? It's practicality. I'm not going to become a burden on the state because I don't have health care, and God forbid I get into an accident and I can't afford an operation. That can't happen to anyone.' ... ''
By Chris Coleman
The Tennessean | January 19, 2011
When the newly elected Republican congressman from Maryland, Andy Harris, was told that his government-subsidized health insurance would not go into effect until four weeks after his swearing-in, he was furious.
According to an article in Politico.com, he demanded to know why it would take so long and what he was going to do without 28 days of health care.
Ironically, Harris, like most of Tennessee's congressional representatives, campaigned against "government health care'' and remains committed to denying his constituents and the American people the very same benefits and protections he is demanding for himself.
Today, the House will vote on a bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and nearly all of Tennessee's representatives intend to vote for repeal. In other words, these representatives will attempt to take away from us what they plan to keep for themselves.
What are the benefits and protections that the opponents of the Affordable Care Act want to keep for themselves but deny to the American people? Here are a few examples:
• When the act fully goes into effect in 2014, it will guarantee that Americans will have access to health coverage, even if they have a pre-existing condition (it already does this for children). Members of Congress already have guaranteed access to government-subsidized health coverage regardless of pre-existing conditions, yet many will vote to take this protection away from American families.
• The Affordable Care Act will provide tax-credit subsidies for many millions of Americans to help make insurance premiums affordable. Opponents of the Affordable Care Act hope to deny these subsidies to Americans, even though members of Congress receive subsidies of almost three-quarters of their health insurance premiums.
• The Affordable Care Act will eliminate the prescription drug benefit gap, the so-called doughnut hole,' for people on Medicare. Elimination of the doughnut hole started last year, when everyone on Medicare who reached the doughnut hole received a $250 check from the federal government, and it will continue until the doughnut hole is completely eliminated in 2020.
Repealing the Affordable Care Act would eliminate this important improvement in Medicare for seniors and people with disabilities, even though congressional insurance plans include prescription drug benefits without a coverage gap.
A handful keep their word
Responding to charges that it is hypocritical to accept government subsidized health insurance while denying it to American families, several newly elected congressmen — Bobby Schilling and Joe Walsh of Illinois, Bill Johnson of Ohio and Mike Kelley of Pennsylvania — have honored their campaign rhetoric by refusing to accept congressional health care.
Other representatives reject the charges of hypocrisy. Freshman Rep. Michael Grimm, R-N.Y., told reporters, "What am I, not supposed to have health care? It's practicality. I'm not going to become a burden on the state because I don't have health care, and God forbid I get into an accident and I can't afford an operation. That can't happen to anyone.''
Unfortunately, that happens to people all the time because most people, unlike Reps. Harris, Grimm and the entire Tennessee congressional delegation, do not have access to government-subsidized health care. And it will continue to happen if opponents of the Affordable Care Act succeed in their efforts to repeal it.