Yesterday, I learned that Rep. Andy Harris (MD-1) of "where's my health care?" fame has decided to forgo enrollment in the Federal Employees Health Benefit Program (FEHBP) in favor of a plan through his former employer. I'm truly happy that Mr. Harris and his family don't have to go a day without adequate health insurance -- a reality 74% of Americans have to face when they switch jobs. Mr. Harris' announcement came in response to the challenge I put forward in November 2010 that members of Congress who support the repeal of the Affordable Care Act should forgo the benefits of taxpayer-subsidized health themselves.
So, good for you, Mr. Harris, for being able to choose the best coverage plan for your family. I'm glad you won't have to experience any of the difficulties that come with having a gap in coverage.
Mr. Harris is not alone in declining enrollment in FEHBP. He, along with roughly 20 other Republicans, have rejected enrollment and in doing so, want you to believe they are somehow more in tune with their constituents. What Mr. Harris and nearly every other Republican aren't telling you is that they have access to affordable health insurance through other means. In Mr. Harris' case, it is through his former employer Johns Hopkins Hospital; in Rep. Bill Johnson's case, through the Veterans' Administration; and in Rep. Tim Walberg's case, through the Michigan government -- a benefit received after serving in the state legislature.
Clearly then, this decision must put them in line with the experiences of everyday Americans. Because having the ability to choose between two robust health insurance plans is as American as apple pie, isn't it? Don't you remember that famous scene by the pool in The Graduate where Mr. McGuire offers Benjamin (Dustin Hoffman) sage advice about choosing between two health insurance options? Oh wait, they were talking about plastics, not health insurance.
So, good for you, Mr. Harris. I'm glad you're able to walk in the shoes of your constituents.
The truth of the matter is that Mr. Harris belongs to a small fraction of Americans who have the luxury of choice when it comes to their health care coverage. How many Americans do you know have a plethora of health care plans to choose from? How many Americans have a back-up plan if they lose their job? I can't point to many, can you? The bottom line here is that there are 30 million uninsured Americans who don't even have a plan A, let alone a plan B.
Almost one year ago, President Obama signed into law the Affordable Care Act, which will make it possible for millions of Americans to afford the plan A they deserve. Moreover, it will eliminate some of the insurance industry's most abusive practices, prevent insurers from discriminating against people with pre-existing conditions (such as cancer or diabetes), allow children to remain on their parents' plan until the age of 26, and most importantly, rein in costs. Unfortunately, Mr. Harris and many of his Republican colleagues have made it their singular goal in Congress to destroy many Americans' chances of having a plan A.
So, good for you Mr. Harris. I'm glad you're trying to make the ranks of those with health insurance even more exclusive.
During the midterm elections last November, Republicans made repealing the Affordable Care Act a central theme of their campaign, yet they don't want the American people to know what kind of health care they themselves accept. That's why this past January I offered an amendment that would require all members of Congress to disclose whether or not they would be accepting taxpayer-subsidized health care through FEHBP in order to see who was truly "walking the walk." To no surprise, Republicans shamelessly and unanimously rejected my proposal. Why? I can only guess, but perhaps it was because the Republican leadership wanted to protect their members from revealing their true colors on health care.
Next week I, along with my colleagues Reps. Linda Sanchez, Donna Edwards and Tim Ryan, who previously joined me in spearheading this effort, will renew this push by introducing a resolution that would require members to disclose whether or not they are enrolled in the FEHBP. Similar to the requirement that members of Congress must file a personal financial disclosure, our bill would require members to report to the Clerk of the House whether or not they are enrolled in the FEBHP -- making it public information. It is my hope that House Republicans will come to their senses, allow this bill to come to the floor and honor their commitment of transparency in government.
So, good for you, Mr. Harris, for deciding to "walk the walk" on health care. But, now that your constituents know where you stand, don't you think every other American deserves to know where their representative stands?