Ask any House Republican about repealing President Barack Obama’s health care law, and you’ll get the same fiery, self-assured talking points about tearing down what Speaker John Boehner has called a "monstrosity."
But talk to some of the 16 freshman lawmakers who have declined their government health benefits, and you’ll hear a different side of the story — about tough out-of-pocket expenses, pre-existing conditions and support for health reforms that would help those who struggle with their coverage. As they venture into the free market for health insurance, these lawmakers — many of whom swept into office fueled by tea party anger over the health care law — are facing monthly premiums of $1,200 and fears of double-digit rate hikes.
The experience has caused some of them to think harder about the "replace" part of the "repeal and replace" mantra the GOP has adopted regarding the health care law.
"I have a niece who has pre-existing conditions, and I worry about her if she was ever to lose her job," said Florida Rep. Richard Nugent, one of the freshman lawmakers who declined federal health insurance benefits.
Maryland Rep. Andy Harris caused an uproar during freshman orientation when he demanded to know how long it would take for his federal health insurance policy to kick in. Since then, the question of whether lawmakers who ran against the health law should accept their own government benefits has become a favorite game of partisan ping-pong in Washington. Democrats are demanding that the lawmakers who voted to deny reform benefits to the American public turn down their own federal employee health insurance, and Republicans have argued that accepting benefits from the government is not inconsistent with GOP support for employer-based coverage