On Health Care & Hypocrisy

Take two anti-hypocrisy pills and call me in the morning!

While Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Giffords continues her remarkable recovery from a gunman’s bullet fired from point-blank range, she has the best doctors in America and – just as importantly – the best health insurance plan on Earth. After ten days in intensive care with “whatever it takes” medical intervention, the cost of Congressman Giffords’ care could approach $1 million, assuming she continues to do well and begins long-term rehabilitation from her injuries.

It is notable today that while Congressional Republicans begin a political assault on “Obama Care” they, too, enjoy health coverage that most of us can only dream about, even though it is the US taxpayers picking up the estimated $15 billion tab for about 8.5 million federal workers – Congressmen included (though a few have declined that coverage to avoid this obvious hypocrisy).

The House “debate” is expected to have all the drama of gravity as it heads to a predictable Republican v. Democrat conclusion with the new Republican majority prevailing in what is largely a symbolic vote destined to fail when it gets to the Senate.

But someone (hopefully some Democrats) needs to sketch out this hypocrisy so that the American taxpayer and voter who bought into the GOP anti-health care scare tactics during the fall elections can see that those who plan to rail against the health care law are well protected against a medical catastrophe. A federal employee who chooses Blue Cross Blue Shield, for example, should expect to pay $1,030 a month with a $20 deductible, and generic prescriptions for $10. The employee would only pay about $300 for that coverage, with the taxpayer picking up the balance.

Perhaps it is no more than a symbolic gesture, but any Congressman or Congresswoman who stands up to denounce this law, or who votes to repeal it, should at least have the courage to decline the health care coverage that the majority of these very same 46 million Americans are busting their humps to provide them. Beyond those 46 million who were uninsured before the law took effect, there are an estimated additional 70 million Americans who are underinsured or would be at financial risk if they had a major medical crisis such as that inflicted on Congresswoman Giffords and the other victims of the Tucson massacre.

Our family had a glimpse of this threat when our then 3-year-old son was in a car accident 22 years ago and spent more than seven weeks in a Boston hospital, most of that in very expensive intensive care. The bill for that care amounted to five years worth of my salary at the time, a bill that would have ruined us financially. Thankfully, we had very good health care coverage and could handle the balance left to us. The new law covers our son under our family plan because he is under 26 years-old and last year was hospitalized again with a related illness.

Democrats should get on their feet today and ask their colleagues supporting repeal of the bill if they would also vote to decline their own coverage as a demonstration that they are willing to put their health care coverage where their mouths are.

One Democrat who cannot stand with them today is Gabby Giffords, a blue-dog Democrat who voted for passage of the health care law in March last year when it narrowly passed by seven votes. The fact that she could not stand among her colleagues today but has a fighting chance to live because of her health care benefits should strike even the most vocal opponents of Obama Care as an irony worth noting.

A more productive debate might be how the rest of America can get the gold-standard coverage we are providing the very people who are about to vote against those Americans not privileged enough to receive this taxpayer benefit.

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