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Jim Hightower: Health-Care Hypocrites

The public deserves the same plan as Congress, and members who oppose extending it should lose their coverage

How do you spell “hypocrisy”? Try this: “H-Y-P-O-C-O-N-G-R-E-S-S.”

The hypocongress consists of those Republicans and Blue Dog Democrats who have risen up on their hind legs in recent weeks to snarl and howl at any mention of a government role in meeting America’s health-care needs. “Socialism,” they bark. “We won’t allow President Barack Obama and the liberals to create a Washington-run, big-government intrusion into the hallowed private market.” Sen. Jim DeMint, a South Carolina Republican, even pledged to fight so ferociously that the health-care battle would be Obama’s “Waterloo.”

Jim Hightower
Jim Hightower

What a stand-up guy for free enterprise! What an ideologically correct appeal to laissez-faire principle! And, let me add, what a crock!

What these bellicose market-purists hope you don’t discover is that they are closet socialists. As members of the congressional elite, they and their families are governmentally blessed with their very own gold-plated, taxpayer-financed, Washington-run health-care system. And, they loooove it.

Theirs is such an effective system that not a single member of the hypocongress has been willing to give it up — even though they surely realize the political peril of being exposed as rank hypocrites for enjoying the very program they so adamantly reject for you.

Actually, they happily take a double dip in the soothing waters of public health care. First, they enroll their entire families in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program — and you probably would, too, if it were available to you, for it’s the Rolls-Royce of health plans.

For example, while even the best employer-provided health policies offer only one or two types of coverage, FEHBP is a Chinese menu, offering dozens of coverage choices that allow its lucky members to assemble a plan that meets their unique needs. Members also need not worry about being denied coverage because of some pre-existing condition — once sworn into office, lawmakers and their families are immediately and fully insured, with total access to a national network of doctors and hospitals.

Here’s the sweetest part of their Rolls-Royce ride: Up to 75 percent of the premiums are paid for by taxpayers, many of whom are lucky if they can afford to buy an old Yugo-level of health coverage in the vaunted private market.

Well, the hypocongress crowd snaps, even if FEHBP is essentially government-paid insurance, at least it’s not socialized medicine, with doctors working for the government — so, technically, we’re still pure.

Ah, that raises the second bit of secret socialism that lawmakers have mandated for themselves. Right under the Capitol dome, conveniently situated between the Senate and House chambers, is the Office of the Attending Physician. Inside are more than a dozen Navy doctors, nurses, medical technicians, pharmacists and other health professionals, all employed by the government solely to attend to a select clientele: the 535 members of Congress.

Let’s say that, after giving a fiery speech on the floor assailing the evils of government-run health care, a lawmaker gets gaseous or has a tongue cramp. He or she can pop right into the OAP for — yes! — some government-run health care. No appointment needed, no pesky insurance forms to fill out, no co-pay — just care.

For this, members pay a flat fee of $503 a year. A year! You and I are taxed to cover the real costs of this elite service. And that’s not the end of public health benefits for lawmakers. If they need a specialist, an operation, therapy, rehab or other pricey procedure, it’s all free at the government’s Walter Reed and Bethesda Naval hospitals.

If it’s good enough for them, why not us? The public deserves what Congress has, and any member who opposes extending it to us should automatically be stripped of their privileges.

For a model of integrity, they might look to Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and Rep. Steve Kagen, D-Wis. — both of whom have rejected taking congressional coverage until everyone in America has coverage of equal quality. I don’t think the noisy naysayers are looking for integrity, however — not as long as they can get away with their abominable hypocrisy.

Jim Hightower is a national radio commentator, writer, public speaker and author of Swim Against The Current: Even A Dead Fish Can Go With The Flow. Click here for more information, or click here to contact him.

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