Jack Kingston Attacks Taxpayer Health Subsidies — While Getting Taxpayer Health Subsidies

Georgia taxpayers pick up about 75 percent of the cost of the Republican Senate candidate’s health care benefits.

U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston speaks U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) before President Barack Obama speaks to a small crowd at the Savannah Technical College March 2, 2010 in Savannah, Georgia. The President's visit is part of the White House's Main Street Tour where he meets with members of the community to share ideas for rebuilding the economy in an effort to spend some time outside of Washington and talk to American families about what they are experiencing during these tough economic times.
National Journal
Shane Goldmacher
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Shane Goldmacher
Feb. 20, 2014, 2:50 p.m.

As Jack King­ston runs for Sen­ate in Geor­gia, the vet­er­an Re­pub­lic­an con­gress­man has needled his GOP primary op­pon­ents over the is­sue of tax­pay­er-fun­ded health in­sur­ance sub­sides.

“Jack,” his cam­paign wrote in a memo last fall, “is the only can­did­ate in this race that has voted to elim­in­ate tax­pay­er-fun­ded in­sur­ance sub­sidies for Mem­bers of Con­gress and their staffs.”

But what the memo didn’t men­tion — and what King­ston doesn’t talk about on the trail — is that Geor­gia tax­pay­ers are foot­ing as much as 75 per­cent of the bill for his own health in­sur­ance. That’s be­cause King­ston, 58, re­ceives health cov­er­age through a plush pack­age that has al­lowed him ac­cess to a life­time of sub­sid­ized health be­ne­fits due to his past ser­vice in the Geor­gia state­house.

Former state le­gis­lat­ors pay “ap­prox­im­ately 25 per­cent of the cost” of their health in­sur­ance, said Pamela Keene, a spokes­wo­man for the Geor­gia De­part­ment of Com­munity Health.

“The rest is paid by the state,” she said.

Former le­gis­lat­ors are eli­gible after eight years of ser­vice, Keene said. King­ston meets that min­im­um; he was in of­fice from 1985 to 1993.

King­ston has re­ceived this state-sup­por­ted health in­sur­ance for more than two dec­ades, since the month he joined the Con­gress in Janu­ary 1993, ac­cord­ing to fin­an­cial dis­clos­ure forms he has filed with the House.

The King­ston cam­paign saw noth­ing hy­po­crit­ic­al in the con­gress­man’s ac­cept­ance of health sub­sides from his time in the Le­gis­lature.

“The State of Geor­gia health care plan is ad­min­istered [in] Geor­gia. He has no vote on the rules of the plan and abides by those es­tab­lished by state law­makers,” said King­ston spokes­man Chris Craw­ford in an email. “He chose to stay on the Geor­gia plan when he first came to Con­gress be­cause he did not want any part of the Po­tom­ac life­style.”

King­ston is locked in one of the hot­test and most crowded Sen­ate Re­pub­lic­an primar­ies in the na­tion. The Geor­gia race fea­tures five top-tier can­did­ates in­clud­ing King­ston; two phys­i­cian-con­gress­men, Phil Gin­grey and Paul Broun; former Geor­gia Sec­ret­ary of State Kar­en Han­del; and busi­ness­man Dav­id Per­due, a cous­in of the former gov­ernor.

The win­ner is ex­pec­ted to face Demo­crat Michelle Nunn, the daugh­ter of former Sen. Sam Nunn, in what most ana­lysts be­lieve is the Demo­crat­ic Party’s best shot at win­ning a Re­pub­lic­an-held Sen­ate seat in 2014.

The GOP primary will be held on May 20, with a run­off two months later.

The early part of the race has turned on who op­poses Obama­care the most, even as all the lead­ing Re­pub­lic­ans have vowed re­peal. Gin­grey has prom­ised to re­peal the law “or go home.” Broun has labeled Obama­care the “flaw of the land.” And Han­del fea­tured it in her first ra­dio ad.

“Only in Wash­ing­ton can con­gress­men cam­paign against Obama­care while re­ceiv­ing spe­cial treat­ment and thou­sands in tax­pay­er sub­sidies that the rest of us don’t get,” Han­del said in the ad.

To push back against such at­tacks, King­ston has said that he doesn’t ac­cept fed­er­al health in­sur­ance. He glosses over his tax­pay­er-fun­ded state health be­ne­fits.

“Now I want to say this: I ac­tu­ally have nev­er taken the fed­er­al health care. So I have nev­er taken this sub­sidy which is the cen­ter of the con­tro­versy,” he said in a ra­dio in­ter­view last year. King­ston went on to say that “end­ing that sub­sidy would be help­ful.”

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