GOP’s Cornyn defends Americans’ freedom to skip health insurance

Christopher Wilson
·Senior Writer

Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas on Thursday defended the GOP’s proposed health care bill against the charge that millions of Americans would lose coverage under it by pointing out it would be their own choice.

Cornyn responded to a tweet that he was willing to trade 250,000 jobs for 22 million losing coverage by writing, “Not lose, choose. Apparently you believe freedom is optional.”

When Bloomberg reporter Steven Dennis pointed out that “[+22 million] won’t be ‘losing’ health insurance, they’ll be ‘choosing’ to go without” was a frequent GOP talking point in the Senate hallways, Cornyn responded.

“Has virtue of being true,” said Cornyn, who is the Republican whip, the second-ranking member of the Senate leadership. “People will buy what they value.”

According to the CBO’s scoring, Cornyn is correct that some would choose not to have health insurance if the individual mandate was repealed:

In the nongroup market, some people would choose not to have insurance because they choose to be covered by insurance under current law to avoid paying the penalties. And, under this legislation, without the mandate penalties, some people would forgo insurance in response to the higher premiums that CBO and JCT project would be charged.

However, the report also says that “despite being eligible for premium tax credits, few low-income people would purchase any plan, CBO and JCT estimate” because plans would cost a “significantly higher percentage of income.” For example, a 64-year-old making $26,500 in a state not offering Medicaid is projected to face a premium increase from $2,000 per year under the ACA to $6,500 per year under the Republican bill.

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When asked to clarify whether or not Cornyn believed that it qualified as freedom if an American was unable to afford health insurance, a spokesman told Yahoo News the senator was “was referring to those who would have the ability to choose not to buy a product if they didn’t want it.”

Cornyn is not the first member of the Republican leadership to make this case. Speaker Paul Ryan has called the House version of the bill “freedom,” citing the removal of the ACA’s individual mandate that requires citizens to either have insurance or pay a penalty. Ryan was questioned about this position during a Fox News Sunday appearance in May but did not directly respond to host Chris Wallace’s comments about how the CBO score meant the bill wasn’t “freedom” or “people voluntarily deciding not to have health insurance.”

The comments also evoke those of former Rep. Jason Chaffetz, who compared the choice of a smartphone, costing $20 to $30 per month, to health care, estimated at approximately $2,100 per month for a family of four.

“Americans have choices, and they’ve got to make a choice,” said Chaffetz in a February 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.”

Gabby Kaufman contributed to this article.


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