Rehberg’s out of touch health plan

Out-of-touch Congressman also offers proposals that are already law

BILLINGS, Mont. – Congressman Dennis Rehberg has a few ideas for the nation’s health care system, but there’s a reason no one takes them seriously.

Some of Rehberg’s proposals have been dismissed as laughable, unworkable and expensive. Others have already been passed into law—despite the Congressman’s own opposition.

Rehberg this week is expected to vote again to allow insurance companies the ability to deny coverage to Americans with pre-existing conditions (like pregnancy) and to deny coverage to young adults. He will vote to deny coverage for 14,000 Montana veterans, and to make prescription drugs more expensive for seniors.

So what does Dennis Rehberg want to do instead to fix health care?

REHBERG PLAN #1: Join a gym.

“If you join a health club and go work out, you ought to be able to deduct that from your taxes,” Rehberg told KULR-TV in 2010.

This spring, Rehberg even toured a health club in Havre to build support for his plan.

But Rehberg’s idea raises numerous questions: Would people be able to deduct the cost of their gym memberships even if they don’t exercise? If not, does he believe exercising should be enforced? How? And is that fair to the tens of thousands of Montanans who live in rural communities that don’t have fitness clubs?

REHBERG PLAN #2: Just tell everyone you don’t smoke.

In April, Rehberg told the Havre Daily News that Americans should have good reason to claim they do not smoke.

“If you don’t smoke, you ought to be able to take $1,500 off your taxes,” Rehberg said.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, America’s population is 313.8 million. And according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, 268.5 million Americans are non-smokers. At a cost of $1,500 per nonsmoker, Rehberg’s smoking plan alone would cost nearly $403 billion—and that doesn’t include the tremendous cost of confirming and enforcing the status of every non-smoker.

REHBERG PLAN #3: Drink “in moderation.”

During that same interview, Rehberg suggested: “[If] you drink in moderation, you [should] get a tax reduction.”

This proposal also raises questions about the cost of enforcement, and what the definition of “moderation” is.

Notably, why didn’t Rehberg just suggest a tax credit for non-drinkers? And why again did Rehberg oppose tax credits to help Americans just buy health insurance?

REHBERG PLAN #4: Better bargaining power

One June 28, Rehberg suggested that small businesses and associations should be able to “band together to negotiate better [health insurance] rates in bulk.”

This actually is a great idea. In fact, the ability for small businesses and associations to band together for better bargaining power is already law of the land—despite Rehberg’s vote against it [HR 3590, Vote 165, 3/21/10]. Dennis Rehberg has even voted numerous times to repeal this provision.

REHBERG PLAN #5: Preexisting Conditions

Rehberg on June 28 also suggested expanding the “role of high-risk pools… for people with pre-existing conditions.”

This too is a great idea. But it is also already law of the land, despite Rehberg’s vote against it [HR 3590, Vote 165, 3/21/10]. In fact, Rehberg voted numerous times to allow insurance companies to deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions—like pregnancy.

“Congressman Dennis Rehberg is so out of touch with Montana that he has no plan to improve access to quality health care in Montana,” said Montanans for Tester spokesman Aaron Murphy. “Although Congressman Rehberg has voted five times to increase his own pay in Congress, he has voted repeatedly against better health care for veterans, seniors, women and young adults. After 12 years in DC, he’s forgotten who he works for.”