Health benefits for NC lawmakers, but not you

February 7, 2011 2:37:20 PM PST
An ABC11 I-Team investigation reveals some North Carolina lawmakers are trying to end health care benefits for the general public while keeping them for themselves.

North Carolina House Republicans passed a bill last week that blocks a key provision of the new federal health care law requiring people to buy insurance beginning in 2014 or pay a penalty.

Click here to read the bill (.pdf)

But those same lawmakers pushing to block President Obama's health reform plan already enjoy many of the benefits the federal law will guarantee for the rest of us. They get them for free, and if they want, they can get them for life.

And, North Carolina lawmakers have it better than other state workers, because they get the benefits despite just working part-time.

"Even though they're part-time state employees, they're treated like full-time state employees for the purposes of health insurance, a right that no other state employee has," explained Adam Searing with the NC Justice Center Health Coalition.

And lawmakers get to buy into the state health plan even after they leave office.

"They have the right to buy health insurance for the rest of their lives without worrying about pre-existing health insurance. That's outrageous. They have a protection that they want to deny to the rest of us," said Searing.

Taxpayers pick up the just over $60,000 tab for the lawmaker's health care plan.

"There's a lot of hypocrisy here," charged Searing.

Searing says blocking the federal requirement that people buy health insurance would make the federal health reform plan too expensive, and its protections would go away - effectively denying people its benefits.

But North Carolina House Majority Leader Paul Stam says Republicans aren't trying to deny anyone anything.

"It's a phony comparison," he told ABC11.

Stam says all House Bill 2 does is protect citizen's individual rights from an unfair federal health care mandate - which he says most people support.

"They find it an unprecedented usurpation of the powers of the people of North Carolina," he said.

House Democrats almost universally disagree with Republicans on the health care issue, but stop short of calling their colleagues hypocrites.

"The issue of whether anyone is a hypocrite or not is only part of the story, part of it is just denial of looking at reality," offered Rep. Verla Insko, (D) Chapel Hill.

Insko has led her party's opposition to House Bill 2. She says she doesn't like it because it strips funding from the federal health care plan, but doesn't offer any solutions to the national and state health care crisis.

"It is in this death spiral. It is not sustainable. We have to fix it. We don't have a choice, so we might as well get on with figuring out how to fix it - not create barriers for people who try," she offered.

The North Carolina Senate is expected to take up House Bill 2 this week.

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