Thursday, February 3, 2011

Uninsured but free?

Today's title is taken from a sign at a Tea Party Patriot rally. Repealing "Obamacare" has been an omnipresent talking point for Tea Party politicians. The latest cacophonous political iteration of this fight ended yesterday.

To review the Congressional opera that has just had its curtain rung down . . .

Tea Party Tax Day in St. Paul, MN. The group protested taxes and called for repeal of the new health care law.
The Tea Party Patriots website asked us to ...
Join your fellow Tea Party Patriots as we begin the next phase in our action plan to fight Government Take over of our Health Care. We are making calls to melt Congress' Phone Lines this week, planning Tea Party Patriots Health Care Freedom Town Halls, and walking our neighborhoods to engage our neighbors in this fight. . . .
. . . We need you to help us prevent politicans (sic) from taking over our health care. It is imperative that you make phone calls and melt the phone lines this week and next week. Time is of the essence and the time to act is now. Let's work together to affect (sic) meaningful change in America and prevent the government from taking over another aspect of our lives. The government take over of our health care is not a done deal yet. Now is the time to act and to a7ct (sic) decisvely (sic). We must weigh in actively, aggressively, and with big numbers.
The Wall Street Journal ran an OpEd  by Douglas Holtz-Eakin, Joseph Antos, and James C. Capretta, stating that the health care repeal will not add to the federal deficit. 

The Congressional Budget Office says that it will.

The stated purpose of Senator Mitch McConnell's unsuccessful effort to undo healthcare reform was "To repeal the job-killing health care law and health care-related provisions in the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010." essentially says the Senator's job-killing claim is hooey.

I think the one inarguable truth of the health care reform debate is: Whether it's a good idea for the government to be involved in health care isn't clear to that oft-cited entity, the American people. 

To mark the end of this round of  Congressional debate on repealing health care, I took a look at what the new Tea Party Patriots-backed members of Congress are doing about their own health insurance. says the U.S. government offers a range of insurance plans to all its employees:
Members of Congress have good health insurance by any standard, but it’s not free and not reserved only for them – and it’s not government insurance. House and Senate members are allowed to purchase private health insurance offered through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, which covers more than 8 million other federal employees, retirees and their families.
It’s not a "single-payer" system where the government acts as the one and only health insurance company. As President Bush’s chief of personnel Kay Coles James said in 2003, while lecturing at the conservative Heritage Foundation, "the FEHB program is not centralized, government-run health care." It has drawn praise both from conservatives and liberals, including President Obama, who held it up as a model for his own health care proposals. . . .
Like other large employers, the government pays a large share of the cost of coverage. On average, the government pays 72 percent of the premiums for its workers, up to a maximum of 75 percent depending on the policy chosen. For example, the popular Blue Cross and Blue Shield standard fee-for-service family plan carries a total premium of $1,120.47 per month, of which the beneficiary pays $356.59. Washington, D.C.-based employees who prefer an HMO option might choose the Kaiser standard family plan. It carries a total premium of $629.46 per month, of which the employee pays only $157.36. 
Nice insurance, if you can get it, right?  The kind we'd all like to have.

But still, if you got elected opposing "government-run" health insurance, should you snap up government-offered insurance?

Fourteen of the 85 first-year Republican lawmakers said no and declined federal health insurance. Among them was Richard Nugent of Florida.
"It has to do with just fundamental fairness," Nugent told ABC News. "This is an elected office. I just feel it shouldn't be like a career and I shouldn't be able to able to enrich myself through that, so it was just a personal choice. It had nothing to do with Obamacare."
Seventy-one first-year Republican lawmakers opted to sign up for federal health insurance, among them Missouri Republican Vicky Harzler.
Tea party favorite Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler (R-Harrisonville) will use her government health insurance plan, PoliticMo has learned from a Hartzler spokesman.
All Republicans in the Missouri delegation to Washington have spoken adamantly against the Affordable Care Act passed by congress last year, which includes creation of pool of providers, just like the pool federal employees including members of Congress chose from. The law also includes protections for individuals with pre-existing conditions, something the repeal would do away with for Ameicans not employed by the federal government.
Hartzler spokesman Steve Walsh emails, “The issue was and always has been government-RUN health care … not government providing PRIVATE insurance to its employees.”
So what's a poor American citizen to make of all this? You got any ideas?

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