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Jim Hightower
Jim Hightower
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Healthcare Hypocrites


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 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."

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.

But 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, snaps the hypocongress crowd, 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 chamber, 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 the 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.

To find out more about Jim Hightower, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at




7 Comments | Post Comment
This whole column is based on a complete misconception about the Federal Employees Health Benefits system (FEHB). To use his folksy Texas language Hightower is barking up entirely the wrong tree here.

The FEHB system covers Congressmen the same as a GS-1 clerk. It is just an ordinary, employer-provided, employee cost-shared health care plan - and the employee share is pretty high - I pay about $360 per month - and it will probably go up 10% next year.

There are private employers - especially unionized ones, with better plans.

And the much hyped "preexisting condition" exclusion almost never applies to any group plans government or private employer.

The "Open Season" feature does allow, the employee to shop between various plans - mostly private-for-profit except the postal workers union plan. But it is not nearly as useful as it would seem. The cheaper plans have awful coverage, and changing plans usually means changing doctors.

But yes, the employer-share of the cost does come from tax revenue, but how is this different from a supermarket employee's health plan coming from the grocery consumer's pocket?

I look forward to Jim Hightower savaging the health plans that UAW Autoworkers get, UFCW Safeway employees get ATW transit workers get. How dare they get this lavish healthcare paid by the hard-working consumers and fare-payers pocket!

Come on, Jim! Attack those greedy unions and the lavish health care plans they extort from their hard working entrepenurs who are the real source of the nations wealth.

(for the clueless, I'm being sarcastic)
Comment: #1
Posted by: pjd412
Wed Oct 28, 2009 10:06 AM
Let's take our cue from Rosa Parks whose simple act of defiance ignited a movement. If we are finally tired of being fodder to this system let's "opt out" of any "health care" provided by private for profit companies. Just refuse it and pledge to continue to do so until we have a public insurance plan in place for everyone not just lawmakers. Medicare for all and not endless wars and bank bailouts!
Comment: #2
Posted by: Giovanna Lepore
Wed Oct 28, 2009 1:22 PM
Mr. Hightower's critic in Comment # 1 fails to mention that the Bureau of Labor Statistics finds that the differential between fringe benefits in the public sector and fringe benefits in the private sector more than compensates for any "pretty high" employee share of health-insurance cost among federal employees. Also for the column being a "complete misconception" of the federal health-benefits program, it is interesting that the critic does not dispute Mr. Hightower's contention that even-handedness--may one presume to invoke the Constitutional principle of equal protection and the Constitutional principle that taxes must be used for a public, truly public, purpose--requires that uninsured taxpayers receive the same coverage for which they contribute for the benefit of others.
Apparently, double-standard Congressmen would have Mr. Hightower practice the drill: So, it's not "socialized medicine" as long as uninsured taxpayers get nothing in return for Medicare payroll-tax withholding from their wages and the payments they make for federal/state income taxes, federal excise and state/local sales taxes and, if they make mortgage payments rather than rent, local property taxes?
It only becomes "socialized medicine" when they demand that their funds(private property) collected as taxes be used only for a Constitutional public purpose, not Medicare coverage for a minority of citizens, for example?
Likewise, it only becomes "socialized medicine" when they demand the same health protection(Fourteenth Amendment equal-protection clause) their tax payments provide Medicare beneficiaries, federal employees, undocumented aliens in detention, the U.S. prison-inmate population, Medicaid recipients, Veterans hospital/clinic patients, CHIPS (Children's Health Insurance Program) users, Native Americans, state civil servants, school-district personnel and other municipal employees?
One thing I would have liked to see the columnist mention is the ready resort to cries of "frivolous," too, as when in one Oregon District court or elsewhere, uninsured taxpayers claim the same health protection their taxes help to finance for complete strangers, out of their household budgets. But, then, does the Anglo-Saxon legal tradition of maintaining individual means of self-protection ring a bell among the double-standard clan?
Comment: #3
Posted by: Charles H. Savage
Fri Oct 30, 2009 8:11 AM
Re: Charles H. Savage
Since my comment was moved from spot 3 to spot 1, the reference is to comment of October 28(# 2 as of 10/31/2009).
Comment: #4
Posted by: Charles H. Savage
Sat Oct 31, 2009 2:37 AM
The same opponents of health care for Americans vote for aid to Israel which enables Israeli's to have socialized medicine which INCLUDES CHOCOLATE MASSAGES, subsidized by American taxpayers. For this I have to commend the Israeli government for taking the best interest of their citizens into practice.
Comment: #5
Posted by: kien lusk
Sun Nov 1, 2009 7:10 AM
give me a break. if the democrats wanted decent healthcare for the masses then they would have had single payer on the table and they would impose the 50% rule just as the Bush crowd did several times to ram a bill through congress.
Comment: #6
Posted by: Edward
Fri Nov 6, 2009 4:57 AM
Re: pjd412
The reason why it is different is because the UAW or the UFCW are not trying to prevent another group of people from having the same coverage. Like a few of our lawmakers trying to repeal the newly passed health care laws that the GOP has marketed as "Obamacare". This is hypocritical, to say the least!
Comment: #7
Posted by: LT
Thu Feb 10, 2011 8:26 AM
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