GOP Congressman Equates Purchasing Health Insurance With Buying an Expensive Vacation Home

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Just when you thought it could not get more ridiculous, GOP Congressman and Chairman of the House Appropriations Labor-Health and Human Services subcommittee, Denny Rehberg, has come up with a novel idea. He wants the Congressional super committee to solve $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction by simply killing off the expansion of Medicaid and the subsidies that will open the door to health care for millions of Americans.

In making his argument, Rehberg noted that expanding the Medicaid safety net program, and providing subsidies to low and middle class workers, is akin to the “expensive vacation home” that the average American would choose not to buy if that American was facing a deficit as serious as the nation’s.

Before getting to the heart of Rehberg’s suggestion, one can’t help but wonder what makes the Congressman think that the “average” American can afford an expensive vacation home (or any vacation home for that matter) on what the average American earns, even if that American is not in debt?

But should we be surprised by the Congressman’s view of the world? This is the same Denny Rehberg who is not only listed as number 23 on the list of the wealthiest members of Congress, but is the same Congressman Rehberg who had no idea what the minimum wage was in his own state (check out this video as it is priceless.)

Of course, far more important is Rehberg’s inability to grasp that getting treatment for cancer or unblocking that clogged artery that is going to make someone a widow or widower is not quite the same as purchasing a vacation home—expensive or otherwise. 

And while life might not be worth living for Rep. Rehberg and friends without that idyllic home on the lake, the average American would still prefer to remain alive, thank you very much, which is precisely why Medicaid coverage was extended to more people and subsidies are to be made available to the working poor and middle-class so that medical care will become an option in their lives.

When asked how low and middle class Americans will manage to purchase health care, should the mandate requiring them to do so be found to be Constitutional by SCOTUS, Rehberg answered that Health and Human Services would be able to grant waivers to those who cannot afford coverage without Medicaid or subsidies.

Thus, Rehberg’s solution is to simply leave millions of Americans without coverage by way of a waiver. Nice.

Health Care For America Now’s Executive Director, Ethan Rome, put it this way:

Rep. Rehberg’s proposal is yet another part of the Republican assault on the middle class. Denny Rehberg says that basic health care is a luxury item, as if a mother in Montana taking her children to the doctor or a cancer patient getting treatment is the same as buying ‘an expensive vacation home.’

Considering that estimates place the uninsured under age 65 in Montana at somewhere between 16 percent and 20 percent of the population, a number well in excess of the national average, I suspect that Rehberg’s fellow Montanans might disagree with his approach.

Let’s hope they voice that disagreement at the ballot box next November.

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WHO DOESN’T LOVE A POSITIVE STORY—OR TWO?

“Great journalism really does make a difference in this world: it can even save kids.”

That’s what a civil rights lawyer wrote to Julia Lurie, the day after her major investigation into a psychiatric hospital chain that uses foster children as “cash cows” published, letting her know he was using her findings that same day in a hearing to keep a child out of one of the facilities we investigated.

That’s awesome. As is the fact that Julia, who spent a full year reporting this challenging story, promptly heard from a Senate committee that will use her work in their own investigation of Universal Health Services. There’s no doubt her revelations will continue to have a big impact in the months and years to come.

Like another story about Mother Jones’ real-world impact.

This one, a multiyear investigation, published in 2021, exposed conditions in sugar work camps in the Dominican Republic owned by Central Romana—the conglomerate behind brands like C&H and Domino, whose product ends up in our Hershey bars and other sweets. A year ago, the Biden administration banned sugar imports from Central Romana. And just recently, we learned of a previously undisclosed investigation from the Department of Homeland Security, looking into working conditions at Central Romana. How big of a deal is this?

“This could be the first time a corporation would be held criminally liable for forced labor in their own supply chains,” according to a retired special agent we talked to.

Wow.

And it is only because Mother Jones is funded primarily by donations from readers that we can mount ambitious, yearlong—or more—investigations like these two stories that are making waves.

About that: It’s unfathomably hard in the news business right now, and we came up about $28,000 short during our recent fall fundraising campaign. We simply have to make that up soon to avoid falling further behind than can be made up for, or needing to somehow trim $1 million from our budget, like happened last year.

If you can, please support the reporting you get from Mother Jones—that exists to make a difference, not a profit—with a donation of any amount today. We need more donations than normal to come in from this specific blurb to help close our funding gap before it gets any bigger.

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