With repealing the health care overhaul law a priority for Republicans, some House Democrats want GOP congressional leaders to identify which of their members are willing to opt out of their congressional health insurance benefits, which are subsidized by taxpayers.
Democratic Reps. Joseph Crowley of New York, Linda Sanchez of California, Donna Edwards of Maryland, and Tim Ryan of Ohio sent a letter to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and presumptive Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, asking them to announce which members will turn down coverage.
“If your conference wants to deny millions of Americans affordable health care, your members should walk that walk,” the letter said. “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.”
According to the Democrats' letter, the federal government will spend more than $10,000 on the premiums for each member of Congress with a family plan. A central tenet of the health care law is a subsidy program so the uninsured can purchase insurance.
“It is amazing that your members would complain about not having health care coverage for a few weeks, even after campaigning to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which will help provide coverage to millions of Americans who find themselves without health insurance for months or even years.”
The letter was spurred by a kerfuffle over Rep.-elect Andy Harris's question during freshman orientation this week about the gap in coverage between when members are sworn in and when their insurance kicks in. The Maryland Republican, who wants to repeal the health care law, says the ensuing reports are overblown.
"It was a simple question any employee should ask: 'Oh, and by the way, how do I get my health insurance to be seamless?'" Harris told FoxNews.com. "I just wanted an answer -- is this gap true. Yes, because of the pay period. Can we pre-buy the coverage? And the answer was no. I didn't even say I want that coverage. The words 'I want it' didn't come out of my mouth."
Harris, an anesthesiologist, said he finds it ironic that the federal government is requiring employers to provide coverage but doesn’t have immediate coverage for government workers.
The Democrats also sent letters to their own colleagues asking them to sign on to the effort to call out Republicans.