Politics

House Dems ask Congress to ‘fess up’ on healthcare benefits

Alex Brown Contributor

House Democrats unveiled a bill Tuesday to force members of Congress to divulge whether they accept the government health care plan provided for them in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP).

“Constituents have a right to know just whose side their representatives are on” said New York Rep. Joseph Crowley. “They have a right to know if their representative is walking the walk and not just spitting out rhetoric.”

The resolution would require members to notify the clerk of the House of their enrollment in FEHBP, making public their acceptance of taxpayer-funded health care. Democrats are accusing Republican members of trying to hide from the public that they utilize government health care benefits.

“[Republicans] made repealing the law the talking point of the midterm elections,” said California Rep. Linda Sanchez. “Now, based on all that rhetoric you would think that Republicans disapprove of taxpayer-funded health care benefits, period. Well, they do — for you and the American people, but not for themselves.”

Rep. Donna Edwards said she was proud to admit to her Maryland constituents that she takes advantage of FEHBP health care and that Republicans should not hesitate to make public their participation. Edwards said, though, that GOP representatives face a difficult task in explaining their acceptance of health care benefits while opposing similar benefits for the general public.

Even Republicans who voluntarily declined to enroll in the program were not spared from criticism. Crowley said that it was easy for some to withdraw from FEHBP because they received benefits from past military service, retirement from state legislatures or previous employment.

“What many of these members have failed to mention is that they have a backup plan,” Crowley said. “They have a Plan B when many Americans don’t even have a Plan A.”

Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan said the resolution was straightforward in its intent.

“We think that we should just disclose the information to our constituents as to whether or not we are taking health care benefits,” Ryan said. “This isn’t some complicated issue.”

Also speaking on behalf of the resolution was Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, a health care lobbyist non-profit.

“There are a good number of members of Congress who want to take away key rights and benefits to America’s families, but want to keep them for themselves,” Pollack said. “This gives hypocrisy a bad name.”

Democrats said that health care was not the only issue that prompted the resolution. Government transparency was another factor, they said.

“If Republicans are serious about their pledge to increase transparency and accountability in Congress, then there is no reason why this resolution shouldn’t receive unanimous support from their side of the aisle,” Crowley said.