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November 18, 2010

Democrats pile on Andy Harris

House Democrats are trying to keep the spotlight on Congressman-elect Andy Harris of Maryland. They're demanding that Republicans in Congress declare whether they plan to use taxpayer-subsidized health insurance for themselves and their families, even as they call for repeal of the new health care law.

Harris, you may recall, got unwanted publicity on Capitol Hill after he asked about health benefits during a private briefing for 250 newly elected House members, staff and family this week. The Baltimore County Republican was reported to have expressed surprise that the federal health care plan, which is offered to all federal employees and members of Congress, would not start covering new congressmen until almost a month after they are sworn in.

Four House Democrats, including Rep. Donna Edwards of Maryland, began circulating an appeal to their colleagues in an effort to keep the story alive. So far, 35 congressional Democrats have agreed to sign a letter to Republican leaders about the issue.

The Democrats' letter said that Harris, described only as "a Republican Member-elect who ran on a platform of repealing" the new health care law "complained about a possible delay in the start of his employer-subsidized Federal Employees Health Benefits coverage."

The Democrats added that "[u]nfortunately, Republicans, like [the unnamed Harris], are happy to receive care that is paid for, in part, with taxpayer funds, but do not want to extend a similar benefit to hard-working, under- or uninsured Americans." According to the Democrats, the federal government -- the taxpayers -- will pay $10,503.48 of the premiums for each member of Congress who chooses a family policy under the Blue Cross standard option offered by the FEHB program.

The letter went on to demand that Republican leaders survey their members "to find out which of their members will forgo the employer-subsidized Federal Employees Health Benefits coverage before trying to make it harder for others to obtain affordable coverage."

In football, they call it piling on. In politics, there's no such infraction.

Harris did not respond to a request for comment sent to his spokeswoman.

In addition to Edwards, the Democrats circulating the letter are Reps. Joseph Crowley of New York, Linda T. Sánchez of California and Tim Ryan of Ohio.

Below is the full text of the Democrats' letter:

Dear Senator McConnell and Representative Boehner:

We were surprised to read in today’s article “GOP frosh: Where’s My Health Care?” in Politico that some of your incoming members are unhappy with the health benefits they are eligible to purchase under the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) – particularly the fact that there is a delay before benefits take effect. Ironically, this is the same predicament millions of Americans currently find themselves in.

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.

We also find it interesting that members of the Republican conference would have no problem taking away health coverage from hard-working Americans, but expect expanded coverage for themselves and their families. The system set up by the Affordable Care Act will allow Americans to choose the plan that works best for them from a variety of private insurance plans, just like the FEHB program that members of Congress are now able to access. The uninsured, small-business employees, and the self-employed will now be able to benefit from this same choice and competition.

It begs the question: how many members of the Republican conference will be forgoing the employer-subsidized FEHBP coverage and experiencing what so many Americans find themselves forced to face? If your conference wants to deny millions of Americans affordable health care, your members should walk that walk. 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. It is worth noting that in 2011, the Federal government will pay $10,503.48 of the premiums for each member of Congress with a family policy under the commonly-selected Blue Cross standard plan.

It is important for the American people to know whether the members of Congress and members-elect who have called for the repeal of health insurance reform are going to stand by their opposition by opting out of the care available to them at the expense of hard-working taxpayers. We look forward to your response in the coming days about exactly how many of the members in the Republican conference will be declining their taxpayer-supported health benefits.


Posted by Paul West at 5:08 AM | | Comments (30)
Categories: Maryland election 2010


I have posted this already here before You guys should stop complaining because, one the health care we have now isnt as good as it was supposed to be. also the law has just been signed so give it some time. so if u want to say u have the right to choose tell that to ur congress men or state official. If you do not have insurance and need one You can find full medical coverage at the lowest price check .If you have health insurance and do not care about cost just be happy about it and believe me you are not going to loose anything!

I didn't vote for him, but he has a job that has insurance available to him. That has nothing to do with Obamacare. He still has a choice to NOT take it. Granted, maybe he should have chosen some better words, but this has nothing to do with the healthcare bill that FORCES people to buy a product. Democrats sound REALLY whiny here.

How about Edwards, Harris and all of them opting out of their plan?

Unfortunately this isn't surprising. Instead of taking him to task, conservative voters are completely missing the issue- the total hypocrisy of his platform. This proves that personally, even the Republican Elected Officials can't believe the ridiculous crap that spews from their mouth. It simply doesn't work. From watching Dr. Harris campaign I would expect him to select and absorb all costs for a private health insurance plan.

Someone please tell me what Harris' accepting congress' healthcare plan have to do with repeal of obamacare? Obamacare is seriously flawed. If it wasn't scores of waivers wouldn't have already been granted exempting numerous corporations from several of its provisions and many house democrats have stated on the record that had they known what was actually in it they wouldn't have voted for it. Sounds to me like nothing more than a bunch of whining losers looking for anything to cry about instead of fixing what they've admittedly screwed up.

Wow, the liberal media is really foaming at the mouth on this one, successfully making something out of nothing! Of COURSE Andy Harris will accept health insurance that is subsidized by the Federal government because he WORKS for the Fed! Just like people who work for Home Depot have their health insurance subsidized by THEIR employer, or people who work for Ford, or people who work for United Airlines, etc.... This has nothing to do with the ObamaCare economic nightmare!!!

Oh Scott, the point is the irony and hypocracy that Randy Andy displayed at the orientation meeting. He is complaining that his family and he are not covered by the SAME type of GOVERNMENT RUN healthcare plan that is The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act or, as you so disrespectfully call it, "ObamaCare."
He wants the GOVERNMEN health care coverage for HIS family, but screw everyone else. So typically Republican. Like those wars, but don't send my child to fight. I say bring back the draft for all US citizens until and unless both wars are 100% ended. Share the pain and loss.

If this is the best the democrats can do, then no wonder it was a Republican landslide. When I started my job, I asked about health benefits for my family also. Fortunately for me, no one thought that was strange. I wonder how many newly elected democrats wanted to ask the same question. Couldn't have been too many.

So, wait! @jswo, you say that the health insurance that Congress receives is akin to having employer based health insurance? I'm not an expert at this stuff, but I'm pretty sure if I can't afford health insurance then I shouldn't be PAYING for a representative's health insurance I DIDN'T VOTE FOR. So, I'm being taxed to pay for Andy Harris' health insurance? And he's whining about not getting it fast enough? Seriously, who's the one's who are "whiny" here?

The liberals in DC and the liberal media are salivating all over this. Unfortunately, we're not hearing the other side of the story. Typical liberal media bias. Your boy Kratovil lost, get over it.

So, a lot of Deep Thinkers here rushing to the defense of Congressman Harris adroitly point out that his Federally-subsidized health care is not Obamacare.
In other words (i.e. English), this means that Congressman Harris actually deserves Federally subsidized health care that is not "Obamacare" -meaning he's rightfully entitled to subsidized healthcare thats likely of higher quality than subsidized healthcare currently available to American taxpayers.
And Harris' solution?
"[T]he answer to the ever-rising cost of insurance is not the expansion of government-run or government-mandated insurance but, instead, common-sense market based solutions that ensure decisions are made by patients and their doctors."

Got that, Deep Thinkers? Have we struck brain yet? Harris wants free market to fix your healthcare, but not his.

If Occam were alive today he'd trade in that razor for a meat ax.

I think it boils down to: Harris doesn't want the government paying for anyone's health insurance but his own.

Claudiahoe - you are missing the point here. Harris ran on the platform that taxpayers should not pay for health care for under or uninsured citizens, but here he is getting his health care subsidized by taxpayer dollars. You don't get the picture, come on...wake up! It's called double standards. I hope his opponents for the next race are taking detailed notes.

Republicans need to stop saying that this is a story because Kratovil lost or that there is a liberal media bias. Every time a Republican does something wrong and we here about it there’s a bias. Harris proved a point everyone was trying to make about him, he’s a pretentious jerk! It’s not uncommon for someone to wait up to 6 months after starting a new job to get benefits. It’s funny that he and his family will be without health insurance and to him it’s intolerable. Some of us who have legitimate full time jobs can’t afford our private health care; others who start working need to wait before the benefit begins. Can’t say they don’t want to work. Can’t call either of those people lazy. Can’t say they are expecting the government to do everything for them. He’s a Hopkins doctor, he’s going to miss some very basic elements about simple things and then have people worship him for his self declared greatness.
It would be a great irony if someone in his family gets injured and needs to spend time in the hospital without insurance. Then he can show us his wisdom as he tries to allow private insurance companies to refuse to pay for the treatment, as it will be a preexisting condition. Perhaps he will truly represent us as he contemplates finding a second job to pay medical bills. Maybe his genius can navigate himself around bankruptcy as he sells his personal belongings to pay for the “best health care system,” in the world.
Long story short, it’s exactly what people didn’t like about him. He’s got no clue about the reality many of us face because he’s never been in our shoes. An untimely injury couldn’t happen to a more deserving person.

Dear Tazz,
You speak from my heart and the hearts of all good Marylanders that did not vote for Harris. Let him feel the pain of the working man. This event, and probably many more from His Pompousness Harris, will be remembered the next election for Senate representation of the great state of Maryland. He does not represent me.

WTF since when was standard EMPLOYEE insurance such a big deal. it has become a big DEAL because the Gigantic health care bill is so full of earmarks and other behind the scenes and under handed BS that it is TOTALLY garbage. The real health care issues that Obama REFUSED to look at separately are still out there and are still a problem. Two of the main ones are 1) Limiting Legal fees in malpractice suits to something under 10% (it is currently 33%) so that the actual patient gets the lions share to help take care of medical or private issues that arose from the malpractice. and 2) to get hospitals and Doctors to charge the same amount (BOTTOM line amount) for the uninsured as they do for the insured. Currently if you go to the hospital or Dr.'s office you can expect your bottom line per procedure to be at least double what it would be if you were insured. This is simple price fixing and hospitals etc should be sued for BS like this. a third item which they are addressing with the Bill is medicare overcharges. The biggest one that the Congress (both parties) are against is #1 the lawyer fee's this is because most congressmen are lawyers. Anyone who has ever been screwed by the government can pretty much blame themselves if they have ever voted for a lawyer to be their congressman.
The above article lists four of the Democrats who are whining about this
Linda T. Sánchez - Lawyer
Tim Ryan - Lawyer
Donna Edwards - Lawyer
Joseph Crowley - Political science major (IE- career Politician)
As you can see this is a problem that is actually one of US vs Them with the Them being Lawyers & Politicians and the US being everyone else
The Other Members listed in the article
Mitch McConnell - Lawyer
John Boehner - Business Major (NOT A LAWYER WOW)

Dear Tazz,
You speak from my heart and the hearts of all good Marylanders that did not vote for Harris. Let him feel the pain of the working man. This event, and probably many more from His Pompousness Harris, will be remembered the next election for Senate representation of the great state of Maryland. He does not represent me.

What I really want to know if he's going to be keeping his JHU insurance which mean that he would be double-dipping: getting paid from JHU and getting paid by the feds.

Maryland Democrats are destroying the party. Cant wait to 2012 to vote more of them out. Maryland is going to isloate its self from the rest of the country.

Capping attorney fee won't do it. If attorney wants to make $50k for a case, current cap of 33% means they would sue for $150k. Cap it at 10%, they would just sue for more - $500k to get that same $50k. Guess who pays for the $350k increase? Us. Instead, cap the damages so drs malpractice insurance doesn't keep going through the roof. Second - there's nothing wrong with charging different rates based on insured or uninsured. It goes directly to ability/likelihood to pay. If uninsured don't pay the bill when due, drs/hospitals need to raise their rates to offset these losses. Guess who pays those increases? Us. Medicare overcharges is definitely an issue.

But this Harris thing is a red herring too. Yes, he should be aware that not everyone starts a new job with benefits on day 1. And he should have kept his mouth shut. But for Dems to seize on it and equate the insurance provided federal employees to the healthcare legislation actually shows how little they understand about what they voted for. That's more damning of all them than it is of the one newcomer.

Didn't I tell you all BEFORE the election what Harris is really like.

Now I bet you wish you voted for Kratovil.

Gee William, I missed your warning. I'm sure if I'd seen it I'd have voted for another of Pelosi's rubber stamps. REPRESENTATIVE Harris (for Marla who thinks he's a Senator) will certainly weather this tempest in a teapot. Just like OweMalley raised taxes in his first year because the voters' minds are so short lived and addled (look at many of these posts), a Harris misstep two months before he's even sworn in will be a mere whimper compared to the roar that Nancy and Harry will produce in the next two years; but William, sorry for the digression, most of us will be waiting with baited breath for what you may next advise.

Thanks 1st District. For voting out a guy that cared about everyone of you for a self centered, egotistical madman. Only there to rubber stamp vote what the republicans tell him to vote for. He will be Buffoon that will keep giving as long as he is in Washington. I only which the media would not mention Maryland as his state because he represents the 1st District. Not all of Maryland.

Non-story. I got coverage on my first day of employment. What's wrong with asking? The dems are reaching, but fortunately for them, there are any other stories to be concerned about.

I think what this issue underscores more squarely is why so many WORKING Americans are currently without health care. Even with the member's contribution, the fed gov (and therefore tax payers) will pick up over $10K in cost. Do you realize that the fed is likely picking up 60-80% of the cost? Do you realize that this is the reason many employers DO NOT offer coverage or offer lousy coverage and have been cutting both the amount of coverage and their contribution? Small businesses collapse under the weight of trying to pay benefits. Many employers do not extend coverage on day one of employment (which is just an indication that Senator Elect-Harris is clueless about the lives of everyday people).

All insurance is about the pooling of risk. To moderate the cost of health care in this country, you need all people to buy coverage instead of only those who can afford it or those who are ill and desperately need it. That was the hope of the federal plan- to get all Americans in the system so that the system can better manage costs. Health Insurance economics 101.

Yes, it was a VERY dumb thing for him to ask and the timing was dumber.'s over and not worth bringing it up again and again.

Funny thing is that his current coverage will cover him during the transaction so why did he care so much?

I have talked with Andy Harris and it was hilarious. I told him he was an ideologue and he nearly went ballistic. Now here he is, living up to his initials again. How can people vote for noodniks like him? Glad he did this so early so folks can see his incredible ego and sense of entitlement as others have so aptly pointed out. He won't do much in Congress except shoot his mouth off.

People are supposed to carry liabilty car insurance, so it only seems right that everyone should have at least limited healthcare coverage.

As far as Harris, if he cannot walk the walk, he should not talk the talk.

Typical lying Democrats! Once again, I'm ashamed I remained a Democrat for as long as I did.

While discussion of the pros & cons of Congresscritters having bettter insurance than the rest of us is a worthy discussion for another day, the Dems are falsely linking Harris' congressional health plan with his oppostion to the rampant pack of big government lies found throughout Obamacare.

Attacking Harris for his healthcare position is like attacking ALL Americans with employer-provided healthcare benefits for similarly opposing Obamacare, which you don't mean to do - DO YOU?

I voted for Harris to do just that. BTW, I haven't been able to afford any health insurance since 2007. Typically myopic progressives will ask why I didn't vote in my own self-interest.

I did. I voted for Andy Harris because Obamacare is an unmitigated disaster for my country. In the short run it will give me coverage, although not for nearly 4 more years. It will be dead before that, I pray.

Here's the rub: the taxation schedule needed to jury-rig this nonsense into appearing to save money tells the story. If Obamacare is going to save the nation money, why is it necessary to tax us for 4 years before benefits kick in?

The answer is that it needed a jumpstart won't save money. Instead, it will screw Americans with existing health insurance (not me). It is typical liberal slight-of-hand combined with smoke and mirrors.

Leave Harris alone. He's asking questions about his family's healthcare insurance attached to his newfound employment - just like most of America. Once there, I expect him to join every effort to drive a stake into the hearts of the closet-socialists like the vipers on this thread and in Congress.

You all are manufacturing this issue because YOU HAVE NOTHING ELSE TO THROW AT CONSERVATIVES.

We handed you your heads Nov 2, but you failed to notice. In 2012 we'll kick your asses if you do not pay heed to what we're telling you NOW.

Perhaps you'll notice that.

Wow, a Republican - who wants to prevent working poor people, and self-employed people who aren't filthy rich - from getting any coverage at all, but can't wait for his own taxpayer-funded Cadillac plan to kick in after a very short waiting period.

Quel surprise!

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Annie Linskey covers state politics and government for The Baltimore Sun. Previously, as a City Hall reporter, she wrote about the corruption trial of Mayor Sheila Dixon and kept a close eye on city spending. Originally from Connecticut, Annie has also lived in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where she reported on war crimes tribunals and landmines. She lives in Canton.

John Fritze has covered politics and government at the local, state and federal levels for more than a decade and is now The Baltimore Sun’s Washington correspondent. He previously wrote about Congress for USA TODAY, where he led coverage of the health care overhaul debate and the 2010 election. A native of Albany, N.Y., he currently lives in Montgomery County.

Julie Scharper covers City Hall and Baltimore politics. A native of Baltimore County, she graduated from The Johns Hopkins University in 2001 and spent two years teaching in Honduras before joining The Baltimore Sun. She has followed the Amish community of Nickel Mines, Pa., in the year after a schoolhouse massacre, reported on courts and crime in Anne Arundel County, and chronicled the unique personalities and places of Baltimore City and its surrounding counties.
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