Chaffetz Calls for More Assistance for Congress as Senate Debates Health Care for Children in Poverty

Commentary
By Celia Riley 7-05-2017
Jason Chaffetz. 
Via personaldemocracy / Flickr.com

I have spent the majority of my career working for Republican and conservative organizations. Trust me when I say this is not about political party. This is about public service and deeper than that, a heart issue of how we view “entitlements” in this country.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) officially resigned last week, and we should all rejoice in his decision to step down. Over the course of his eight years in Congress, Chaffetz has become everything citizens should be weary of: A politician who is paid $174,000 plus generous benefits, including a health care subsidy, complains about not having enough money, and proposes taxpayers cover more perks.

From a man who reportedly had a net worth of up to $5.6 million, and lived in a million-dollar home before entering office, Chaffetz used his last week as a congressman to propose a $2,500 monthly housing stipend for members in addition to their six-figure salary. And that does not account for the taxpayer-funded benefits members enjoy — like a better retirement plan than most public and private sector workers, better death benefits than our service members killed in action, a $250,000 budget for travel and office expenses, and “gold-level” health care plans members and their staffs receive while the government pays three-quarters of their insurance premiums.

At the same time, Congress is considering significant cuts to health care subsidies for low-income earners under the proposed Senate bill — a bill that would change how the federal government subsidizes individual health plans and funds Medicaid, a health care program for those living in poverty in our country. Medicaid covered more than 37 million children in FY2016. This program is a source of coverage for nearly four in ten children nationwide, and 44 percent of children with special health care needs.

To put the finances into perspective, households in Chaffetz’s district bring home a median income of just under $60,000 annually, and D.C. residents manage households with $93,000. He makes more than both combined yet asks for another government-funded handout masked as a way to attract a variety of economic backgrounds in candidates for Congress. And despite earning $60,000 more than the annual threshold a family of five can make in order to receive the health care subsidy (must be less than $113,760), Chaffetz would qualify because he was a member of Congress.

Why does Chaffetz feel entitled to more assistance but suggested that Americans who cannot afford health care would have to make a choice between coverage and other necessities? While Jason Chaffetz says his salary plus subsidies and benefits were not enough, citizens are covering the bill and our politicians are debating providing health care coverage for poor children with special needs. Trust me when I say this is not about political party. It’s a heart issue.

Celia Riley is an Independent Research Analyst who has played a key role in electoral campaigns for nearly a decade. Though working for primarily Republican organizations, she considers herself bureaucratically thoughtful and devotes most of her free time to advocating for foster children in D.C. and mentoring at-risk students. 

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