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Chaffetz to low-income Americans: Buy health care, not iPhones

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As House Republicans begin to roll out their proposed replacement for Obamacare, Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah suggested that poor Americans could pay for plans by prioritizing health care over smartphones.

“Americans have choices, and they’ve got to make a choice,” said Chaffetz in a Tuesday interview with CNN, “so maybe rather than getting that new iPhone they just love and spending hundreds of dollars on that they should invest in their own health care. They’ve got to make those decisions themselves.”

According to the 2016 Millman Medical Index, the average annual cost of health care for a typical American family of four was $25,826, or just over $2,100 per month. For a standard two-year plan on Verizon with no special deals, the iPhone 7 would cost $27.08 a month. A 30-month plan with AT&T with no special deals costs between $13 and $25 for different models of the iPhone. There are additional avenues via websites like Amazon, where it’s a one-time cost of $364.98 for an iPhone 6.

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington on Sept. 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Molly Riley, File)
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington on Sept. 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Molly Riley, File)

The proposed bill offers age and income-dependent tax credits of between $2,000 and $4,000 for individuals making less than $75,000 per year.

Chaffetz said later Tuesday morning in a Fox News interview that his iPhone versus health care comment wasn’t made “as smoothly” as it could have been.

“Well, what we’re trying to say — and maybe I didn’t say it as smoothly as I possibly could — but people need to make a conscious choice, and I believe in self-reliance. And they’re going to have to make those decisions.”

As a member of Congress, Chaffetz is eligible to receive health care and a smartphone from the government.

When Chaffetz was asked by CNN about how access did not equal coverage for lower-income Americans, the congressman replied, “We’re getting rid of the individual mandate; we’re getting rid of those things that people said they don’t want.”

While the proposed new GOP health care bill removes the individual mandate that required all Americans to have health insurance or pay a penalty to the IRS, it does allow insurance companies to impose a 30 percent surcharge to anyone who buys a policy after a gap in coverage of two months or more.

Chaffetz has been under fire for the last two months in his role as chairman of the House Oversight Committee, as constituents chanted, “Do your job!” at a February town hall meeting. Chaffetz said the majority of those in attendance were paid outsiders.

The proposed bill has a long road to potentially replacing Obamacare, as four Republican senators have already voiced concern about the bill’s protection of the Medicaid expansion and the libertarian CATO Institute is calling it a “train wreck waiting to happen.”

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