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Posted at 12:33 PM ET, 02/14/2011

House GOPer against big government health care enjoys taxpayer-funded state government insurance

By Greg Sargent

Okay, this one is funny. As you know, Dems and lefty groups have been loudly insisting that House Republicans in favor of repealing the Affordable Care Act should forego the "government run" insurance they enjoy as members of Congress.

One of those GOPers is Rep. Leonard Lance of New Jersey, a fiscal hawk who opposes the health reform law out of opposition to big government. He is in the crosshairs of an ad by Blue America PAC accusing him of enjoying taxpayer-funded insurance.

After that ad started running, Lance's office protested that he is not enrolled in the plan enjoyed by members of Congress, and successfully got the ad pulled. But in response, New Jersey's Courier-Post did some digging and found that as a retired state government official, he and his family do enjoy taxpayer-funded health care on the state level:

Lance opposes the health care reform package on cost concerns -- he's a deficit hawk -- and on small-government principles.

But it turns out he receives medical care for practically nothing, thanks to the taxpayers of New Jersey. Lance receives family health coverage that is free except for co-pays, the state Department of Treasury confirmed Friday. The former state senator, assemblyman and Kean administration official qualified for retirement in 2006, his 25th year of service. He retired in January 2009, when he moved on to Washington, and enrolled in the state's free health plan for retirees.

The family plan Lance is enrolled in is the most expensive of the 10 options available. His coverage costs $1,906.42 per month, or $22,877.04 per year.

Whoops! Rep. Lance's chief of staff appears to realize that by protesting the ad attacking him, he's only created more problems. The aide told the Courier-Post: "I should have kept my mouth shut."

It's another mark of the ways that the politics of repeal -- even if the health law is unpopular -- are putting some Republicans in a very awkward spot.

By Greg Sargent  | February 14, 2011; 12:33 PM ET
Categories:  Health reform, House Dems, House GOPers  
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Comments

There's nothing "awkward" about the State of New Jersey being an "employer" even for retirees.

Posted by: clawrence12 | February 14, 2011 12:47 PM | Report abuse

Again, Federal vs. State government-run healthcare (no hypocrisy in being against the former but for the later). I though that only Right-Wing wackos saw everything as black and white?

Posted by: clawrence12 | February 14, 2011 12:52 PM | Report abuse

I agree that Lance got himself in trouble by touting the fact that he wasn't receiving federal health care plan and would have been better off keeping their mouths shut. However, that point aside, I think the whole "they oppose government-run health care while benefiting from health care provided by the government" angle is a little weak. I mean, yes their insurance is provided by the government, but the government is their employer. Employer-provided health insurance is pretty standard in this country. None of these Rs are calling for health insurance provided by the government to its employees to be repealed. To me, the analogy doesn't hold up.

Posted by: mobrien83 | February 14, 2011 12:57 PM | Report abuse

Great post, thanks. Yet another clear case of conservative hypocrisy. They preach about small government and personal responsibility while gorging at the government trough. How can anyone take these conservatives seriously?

Posted by: rgray | February 14, 2011 12:58 PM | Report abuse

mobrien, I get that objection, but I think the bottom line remains that taxpayers are paying for it.

that also dispenses with the "federal versus state" distinction that clawrence raises.

Posted by: Greg Sargent | February 14, 2011 12:59 PM | Report abuse

So this guy is collecting a pension and free medical insurance from New Jersey while also collecting a handsome pay check from Uncle Sam. Here in Ohio (and I'm sure in most places) this is called double-dipping - a nice (and completely legal) way to game the system.

Posted by: pragmaticagain | February 14, 2011 1:01 PM | Report abuse

If the federal versus state argument had resonance, Mitt Romney would not be in trouble with his Mitt-Care in Massachusetts. It is conservatives who are castigating Romney for his mandated healthcare for all in Massachusetts.

http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2011/02/10/108444/as-romney-angles-for-2012-health.html

Posted by: 12BarBluesAgain | February 14, 2011 1:07 PM | Report abuse

There is no hypocrisy in being in the federal employee health system if you're a federal employee. Even if one opposed ACA.

Mind you, the whole employer paid system was a dodge around WWII era wage and price controls. Once the exchanges are open, eliminate the subsidy and let employees spend their own money as they see fit. Isn't that what conservatives are supposed to support?

BB

Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | February 14, 2011 1:09 PM | Report abuse

Greg, what about the distinction of State of New Jersey being an "employer"? No one I know is saying to get rid of ALL taxpayer funded healthcare. Just the unconstitutional taxpayer funded healthcare.

Posted by: clawrence12 | February 14, 2011 1:09 PM | Report abuse

""So this guy is collecting a pension and free medical insurance from New Jersey while also collecting a handsome pay check from Uncle Sam. Here in Ohio (and I'm sure in most places) this is called double-dipping - a nice (and completely legal) way to game the system.""

Not only that but those public employee pensions, not only in NJ but across the country, are coming under fire from Republicans and even some Dems. It makes him look worse even than just taking the health plan being offered by the Feds as an employee.

Posted by: lmsinca | February 14, 2011 1:10 PM | Report abuse

FarlingtonBlade said (earlier), "Eliminate second homes. The point is to encourage home ownership, not a shack at the lake."

Gaaaaack!

I ♥ my country Dacha and my city pied-à-terre. I'm all for socialism, but getting rid of a tax subsidy for 2nd homes is class warfare!

Posted by: shrink2 | February 14, 2011 1:12 PM | Report abuse

"There is no hypocrisy in being in the federal employee health system if you're a federal employee. Even if one opposed ACA."

What about the hypocrisy of people who despise government holding public office and accepting employment benefits they seek to deny others and argue are unconstitutional?

Posted by: wbgonne | February 14, 2011 1:12 PM | Report abuse

If anything, this situation warrants further investigations of state pension/retirement obligations. I don't live in NJ, so it's not my concern, but does having "free" health care for all state retirees make sense?

Posted by: NoVAHockey | February 14, 2011 1:19 PM | Report abuse

I completely agree with mobrien and bb - and clawrence, here: when a government is an employer, in our system of employer centric health insurance provision, it is in no way hypocritical for the government employee not to want to let non-employees into that system. It is in no way relevant that governmental entities provide employee benefits when arguing about public benefits.

And bb is correct that we should be moving away from employer-centric health insurance, although I do not think PPACA helps in that struggle.

Posted by: mark_in_austin | February 14, 2011 1:28 PM | Report abuse

I ♥ my country Dacha and my city pied-à-terre. I'm all for socialism, but getting rid of a tax subsidy for 2nd homes is class warfare!

Posted by: shrink2 | February 14, 2011 1:12 PM | Report abuse

---

Exactly. I'm personally for declaring war on the 8th grade.

BB

Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | February 14, 2011 1:29 PM | Report abuse

It is hypocritical for people who hate government to work in government. Period. They should get jobs they believe in and leave people who care about government to run it.

Posted by: wbgonne | February 14, 2011 1:50 PM | Report abuse

Has Paul Ryan found his 2009 Health Care Reform bill yet. He said he had it ready, back in 2009, so where is the beef now Paul?

Were you just using the Big Lie Tactic back in 2009?

Tell the truth now Paul; you really never did have that bill ready, did you?

Posted by: Liam-still | February 14, 2011 1:54 PM | Report abuse

wbgonne- government isn't like a little child. You don't have to want it to grow big and strong to care about it. Government is not an end; it is a means. Being dissatisfied with decisions that are made shouldn't mean you are excluded from the decision making. I "hated government" a lot during the GW Bush era, but I still wanted to participate in how my country was run.

Posted by: mobrien83 | February 14, 2011 1:55 PM | Report abuse

Mark, BB, et al, the distinction is that he was being covered by someone who hasn't employed him for two years now.

Maybe the guy is fine with employer coverage, but I'm sure he's against SS or medicare. And that is essentially what he's been getting.

Posted by: DDAWD | February 14, 2011 1:57 PM | Report abuse

wbg: "It is hypocritical for people who hate government to work in government. Period. They should get jobs they believe in and leave people who care about government to run it."

Amen.

Posted by: suekzoo1 | February 14, 2011 1:58 PM | Report abuse

Sorry Mad Money fans, here is a piece supporting my position last night that Wall Street is not for the retail investor. How about buy and hold, or index funds? Heck no.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/14/opinion/14Salmon.html?hp

"And the Germans aren’t buying the New York Stock Exchange for its commoditized, highly competitive and ultra-low-margin stock business, but rather for its lucrative derivatives operations."

Posted by: shrink2 | February 14, 2011 2:00 PM | Report abuse

All, more low comedy from Mitt Romney:

http://wapo.st/fJTKya

Posted by: Greg Sargent | February 14, 2011 2:03 PM | Report abuse

DDAWD- I agree. My post was not articulated very well. Lance shot himself in the foot by bragging about not receiving halth care from the federal government when he is receiving health care from the government of NJ. The fact that he is not an employee of the state makes the situation, in my opinion, a little hypocritical (though, it still is a little different from the ACA situation since lifetime coverage was part of a compensation package from an employer, even if it is a former employer).

My larger point was about the tactic of calling members of Congress who oppose ACA hypocrites if they accept government health care from the federal government, while the federal government is their employer, hypocrites. Lance would never have denied accepting federal coverage if that was not the original complaint being leveled at him and others who oppose ACA.

I believe such attacks are unwarranted and make a very poor analogy.

Posted by: mobrien83 | February 14, 2011 2:04 PM | Report abuse

The contention that people who don't like government shouldn't be allowed to play is ridiculous. It's like saying, "people who dislike wall street shouldn't be allowed to have input into how it's regulated."

Posted by: mobrien83 | February 14, 2011 2:07 PM | Report abuse

So, he has a pension. GM used to do the same for its retirees. My guess is that he'll find out that Gov. Christie has a skeptical eye towards providing healthcare benefits for 20 year retirees and will cut his family's benefits. THAT would be delicious irony.

BB

Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | February 14, 2011 2:10 PM | Report abuse

Gov. Christie has a skeptical eye towards providing healthcare benefits for 20 year retirees and will cut his family's benefits. THAT would be delicious irony.
-----------------------------------------------
Get ready for irony. Christie has proposed just such a change:

Gov. Chris Christie is pushing for reforms to bring the state's pensions and benefits structure more in line with that offered to him when he was a U.S. attorney.

"As an employee of the federal government, I had to pay for 34 percent of the cost of my premium. So I paid for a little more than a third and the taxpayers paid for two-thirds," Christie recounted at a Jan. 24 town hall in Chesilhurst.

By contrast, most New Jersey employees pay just 1.5 percent of their salary toward one of three plans. According to the state, 96 percent of public workers choose the most generous plan.

Posted by: 12BarBluesAgain | February 14, 2011 2:19 PM | Report abuse

The contention that people who don't like government shouldn't be allowed to play is ridiculous. It's like saying, "people who dislike wall street shouldn't be allowed to have input into how it's regulated."

Posted by: mobrien83 | February 14, 2011 2:07 PM | Report abuse

If you interviewed for a job and Wall Street and the first words out of your mouth were what a bunch of crooks worked on Wall Street and Wall Street added nothing of value and that Wall Street was a waste of time and money -- and maybe even unconstitutional -- do you think you'd get hired? Would you go to a doctor who hated the practice of medicine and couldn't stand the sight of sick people?

No. Then why should we hire people who hate government to work in government?

Posted by: wbgonne | February 14, 2011 2:29 PM | Report abuse

wbgonne- I think those are all good reasons to not vote for someone if you disagree with them. But if a person said any of those things, they would not be prohibited from practicing medicine or from working on wall street, they simply wouldn't be likely to be hired. In the case of members of Congress, they have already been hired. I took your statement to mean that people who oppose government as you think government should be shouldn't be allowed to work in it. But looking back at your post more closely, that may not be what you meant. If you meant they might be happier in another field, I suspect you are correct.

Posted by: mobrien83 | February 14, 2011 2:36 PM | Report abuse

@wbgonne "It is hypocritical for people who hate government to work in government. Period. They should get jobs they believe in and leave people who care about government to run it."

This would be a perfectly fine approach to take if obeying the law was optional.

However, since the people who believe in government are willing to use coercion to make everyone else go along with what they want to do, this argument is specious.

Posted by: jnc4p | February 14, 2011 2:37 PM | Report abuse

@shrink2

That's a great piece. However, I think that Salmon avoided any mention of Sarbanes-Oaxly which is when I noticed (for better or for worse) that companies started trying to avoid becoming public for as long as possible.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/14/opinion/14Salmon.html?hp

Posted by: jnc4p | February 14, 2011 2:41 PM | Report abuse

@shrink,

I was aware that the # of public companies has fallen drastically due to mergers and acquisitions and fewer IPO's but I didn't realize there were only about 4000 stocks traded on the major exchanges. No wonder we have more stock market bubbles with more money chasing fewer stocks.

Posted by: 12BarBluesAgain | February 14, 2011 2:44 PM | Report abuse

"Greg, what about the distinction of State of New Jersey being an "employer"? No one I know is saying to get rid of ALL taxpayer funded healthcare. Just the unconstitutional taxpayer funded healthcare."

don't you get it.. he has taxpayer funded health care..

Posted by: newagent99 | February 14, 2011 2:50 PM | Report abuse

I guess I understand that this as an easy issue to demagogue, but those taking Lance to task really make no logical sense. There is no reason why politicians (or anyone else) who object to a given policy ought not take advantage of it anyway if it is indeed the law. When laws we object to operate to our disadvantage, we don't get to personally opt out of them, do we? So by what rationale ought we opt out of laws that we object to but which operate to our advantage?

To draw an analogy, imagine if an NBA owner advocated for a particular rule change, say to change the shot clock from 25 seconds to 17 seconds, but he was unable to get a majority of other owners to go along. Would anyone expect that owner to instruct his team to ignore he 25 second shot clock, and make sure they shoot within 17 seconds on each posession? Of course not. The rules are the rules and we play by them, even if we object to them.

Again, this is an easy issue to demagogue if one is so inclined (as Greg obviously is). But there really is no sensible point being made.

(ps to ruk - with repsect to your anticipated response that it is insane to suggest that the NBA start using a 17 second shot clock, or that no owners are suggesting such a thing, or that I am trying to change the subject by talking about the NBA, consider those objections noted.)

Posted by: ScottC3 | February 14, 2011 2:54 PM | Report abuse

Republicans being against deficit spending, is like Charlie Sheen being against Narcotics and Prostitutes.

Posted by: Liam-still | February 14, 2011 3:32 PM | Report abuse

Obama's proposed budget cuts the deficit by $1.1 trillion over the next ten years. Let's see now if the Republicans can cut even more.

Posted by: clawrence12 | February 14, 2011 4:00 PM | Report abuse

He is a Repub talking
He is talking about healthcare
Therefore he is lying

Posted by: durk2 | February 14, 2011 4:27 PM | Report abuse


Many existing laws and regulations apply specifically to pregnant women. Several provisions of the Affordable Care Act offer new benefits for expecting mothers. Search online for "Wise Health Insurance" if you need affordable insurance for yourself or your wife.

Posted by: jamezbelly | February 15, 2011 1:21 AM | Report abuse

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