The committee voted last week 12-11 in favor of a two-page amendment to the health reform bill requiring all members of Congress and their staffs to enroll in any new government-run plan, the WSJ reported.
“Yet all Democrats — with the exceptions of acting chairman Chris Dodd, Barbara Mikulski and Ted Kennedy via proxy — voted nay,” the report further states. “In other words, Sherrod Brown and Sheldon Whitehouse won’t themselves join a plan that ‘will offer benefits that are as good as those available through private insurance plans — or better,’ as the Ohio and Rhode Island liberals put it in a recent op-ed. And even a self-described socialist like Vermont’s Bernie Sanders, who supports a government-only system, wouldn’t sign himself up.”
Why would federal lawmakers support such a notion when they now qualify for the Congressional coverage, a remarkably generous plan that is not available to all Americans? Frankly, it is surprising the amendment passed at all.
A reader recently forwarded us a link to that column, along with the comment that “Perhaps Senator Brown, to borrow the words of George Orwell, believes he is ‘more equal’ than his constituents.”
In Senator Brown’s press release on the passage by the committee of the health reform bill, he credits the members for their work during a 13-day series of 23 sessions in a “deliberate, bipartisan manner” and that “more than 788 amendments were filed, 287 were debated and 161 amendments offered by Republicans were passed.”
The committee is to be acknowledged for plowing through such a huge number of issues, and the relatively small but important amendment sponsored by Republican Tom Coburn did pass, but the individual voting is still cause for consternation. If our lawmakers are prepared to enact legislation that launches a new federal health insurance plan that critics believe will ultimately eliminate private competing plans, then curtail reimbursements to physicians and hospitals, restricting services to all, they owe it to their constituents to enroll and be part of that plan from the beginning.
Of course, as noted in the WSJ editorial, this was committee passage, and not the final version of anything, so the requirement that passed may likely by stripped out “later in some backroom.” Republican Senator Judd Gregg also voted against the requirement amendment, because, as he bluntly told the WSJ, the public option “will be so bad that I don’t think anyone should be forced to join.”
There is another school of thought on why these lawmakers voted against the requirement that they join this proposed federal coverage. Their alternatives, either through the current Congressional insurance or their own private coverage, could be defended as less of a burden on the American taxpayer, at least for now. That makes their action the honorable thing to do if they can afford it. However, we doubt that is the case. Ironically, most Americans will not have choice if a federal health insurance plan is implemented that drives out private insurance competition.
At that point some of those legislators who voted to stick to their own insurance may also lose that option.