For the three freshman Republican congressmen who have declined to take government provided health care, the decision has absolutely nothing to do with Obama’s health care reform, though some have tried to make it about that.
Sixty Democrats signed a letter written by Democratic Rep. Joseph Crowley of New York that called Republican lawmakers who accepted government provided health care hypocrites.
“If your conference wants to deny millions of Americans affordable health care, your members should walk that walk,” the letter read. “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.”
But for Reps. Bobby Schilling of Illinois, Joe Walsh of Illinois, and Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania, such a statement is mixing messages.
“In many ways it has nothing to do with Obamacare,” Walsh told The Daily Caller, explaining that his decision to reject government health care was about not making taxpayers pay for his insurance and retirement benefits, as well as a way of maintaining his outsider status in Washington.
For Kelly, there’s nothing even that symbolic about the choice.
“I am in a unique position as a small business owner,” he told TheDC via e-mail. “I have been able to provide insurance for my family and my colleagues and I have been told that I can keep my own plan.”
Schilling spoke to TheDC about his decision, explaining: “I made a contract with the district that I was running in, and one of the things that I had in the contract was that I’d bring my own health care to Washington D.C.”
“It has nothing to do with president Obama’s health care plan,” he said.
Schilling has never held office before in his life, and he said that keeping his own health care was a way of showing that he would “retain the same lifestyle I had before I got elected.”
“I think that we’re really no better than the people we represent,” he said. “We’re leaders, we’ve been elected to represent the people in our district, and I think that this just takes that step of showing that I hey, I can bring my own health care … it was just a way for me to show that I’m going to remain myself, I’m not going to go there and just get bigheaded and think, ‘oh, I’m the congressman now.’”
Schilling will keep his current health care plan, a “health savings account through Blue Cross/Blue Shield,” which, he says, is “health insurance, not health care.”
“Health insurance is like a maintenance plan, kind of like your car insurance,” he analogized, since car insurance is used when you wreck your car, not for everyday repairs.
“It gives me what I call skin in the game,” he said. “If you see my family and I at the emergency room, it’s because there’s an emergency…if my kids have a cold I’m not going to show up at the emergency room; I’m going to go to the doctor and do it that way.”
Schilling did note that at the time he made this promise, he was under false impressions about the nature of the health care offered to members of Congress.
“I originally thought it was all free when I did my contract,” he said, “but they do have to pay for it.”
Would he still have made the promise if he had known that?
“I would have done the same thing,” he said.