Friday, February 8, 2013

UPDATE: Stop wasting state tax money on legislators' health insurance

Posted By on Fri, Feb 8, 2013 at 9:44 AM

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Enough. Enough with Republican legislators, many of them unemployed except for what they suck off the state teat, talking about how easy it is for single women making poverty level wages to pay for their own insurance. Enough with talk of chiselers getting health care they don't deserve (while drug companies and health institutions make off with purloined millions). Enough with fingerprint scanners. Enough with no coverage for expensive abortions to save a woman from carrying a non-viable fetus to term. Enough with resistance to paying for birth control pills. Enough with legislators who think if their cleaning ladies would just work a little more they could pay for insurance and have plenty leftover. Enough with the hypocrisy.

Let's save some real money. Let's stop the pay enhancement given state legislators through state-subsidized health insurance for themselves, spouses and families.

I have requested the list of legislative recipients of this non-taxable benefit (none dare call it an unconstitutional pay supplement.) I have already been informed by the state auditor's office that federal health privacy law — according to guidance they've received — prevents identification of individual legislators who are receiving taxpayer money for their health insurance. Many of these same legislators are happy to plant the state in the big fat middle of women's uteruses, of course, but none dare call THAT a matter of health privacy.

I am promised a cumulative number on the state representatives and senators who are covered by health insurance. I hope it will also reveal how many are availing themselves of richly subsidized coverage for spouses and children, while Republicans filibuster the terrible cost of providing Medicaid, with co-pays, to people between 100 and 138 percent of the poverty level — $11,000 to $15,000 a year. I am trying, too, to get the cumulative cost of this legislative welfare payment.

UPDATE: Getting this information is proving difficult. I know this much — that 34 House members and 20 senators who are holdovers from 2012 are getting state subsidized insurance. This year, coverage for the employee only costs taxpayers about $4,680 a year, or a minimum of more than $252,000 cumulatively for this group. The numbers don't reflect how many new legislators are on the taxpayer insurance dole. That won't be known until later this month. The House has 40 new members this year and the Senate has four. I'm awaiting a figure on the cumulative cost of the program, too. It will increase substantially when spouse and family subsidies are included.

On the jump, you'll see the amount taxpayers contributed in 2013 to state employee insurance for which these legislators qualify. It varies based on family members covered and the level of coverage chosen. You can delve into the level of coverage here. But you'll see from the chart on the jump that a $15,000-a-year legislator who chooses to cover his wife and family — let's guess a Justin Harris, maybe, who also lives off state tax money paid to his church daycare — gets up to $862 in state direct contributions and redirected state money from plan reserves to the $1,282 base monthly premium of the best coverage. That's more than $10,000 a year in taxpayer payments for a legislator's family coverage. Remember the legislators, such as Jonathan Dismang, who think people making $11,000 a year can maybe afford to pay for their own insurance in a federal exchange rather than burden Medicaid and Arkansas taxpayers with that cost.

Again: Republicans don't want to pay for poor people to have health coverage. But you can be sure plenty of them are lapping up a state subsidy for themselves. If the state won't tell us, perhaps those legislators, surely those with their mitts up a woman's vagina, wouldn't be too embarrassed to tell us themselves.

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