Repealers: If you don’t want health care, don’t take it up…

Incoming Congressman Andy Harris, a Maryland Republican physician who campaigned against health care reform, who complained about how his new health coverage won’t kick in until February 1, 2011, leaving him a 28-day gap from his swearing-in.

It’s not just that he railed against “government-run” health care while demanding some of his own–which would literally be the same type of coverage, through a health insurance exchange, that is provided under the new federal law.

He also bemoaned the lack of coverage for 28 days when, through his efforts to repeal the federal health law, he would takeaway the opportunities for coverage for millions of Americans.

He also seemed clueless about the current barriers to health coverage. Harris, a Maryland state senator who works at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore and several hospitals on the Eastern Shore, also told the audience, “This is the only employer I’ve ever worked for where you don’t get coverage the first day you are employed.” In fact, most employers have some form of waiting period, often of several months, before being allowed to sign up for health coverage. Some retailers and other employers are known for having waiting periods for as long as two years–so they technically offer coverage, but only a fraction of their workforce is eligible. The new federal health law, which Harris seeks to repeal, would actually limit waiting periods for employer-based coverage to no more than three months.

California Congresswoman Linda Sanchez of Los Angeles was one of four Democratic Representatives, along with Rep. Joe Crowley of New York (representing the Bronx and Queens), to write a letter to the Republican leadership on this issue. Here is their letter:

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.

Health Access California promotes quality, affordable health care for all Californians.
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