Health and Science

Republican leader tells poor to stop buying iPhones, as Obamacare replacement plan to give insurance CEOs BIG tax break

Lawmaker says people need to choose between gadgets and health insurance
Lawmaker says people need to choose between gadgets and health insurance

You poor folks need to stop buying those iPhones — but you health insurance CEOs ... get ready to buy that new yacht!

A leading Republican congressman suggested on Tuesday that lower-income Americans stop buying new iPhones and "invest in their own health care." The comment by Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah came a day after the GOP rolled out a new Obamacare replacement bill that could increase their insurance costs.

The bill also contains a big new financial treat for health insurance companies.

The Republican plan calls for allowing insurers to write off as a business expense the entire amount of their executives' salaries on their taxes, and not just the first $500,000, as is the case now under the Affordable Care Act.

Big insurers Aetna and Cigna paid their respective CEOs Mark Bertolini and David Cordani each more than $17 million in salary last year.

Chaffetz appeared Tuesday morning on CNN, where a reporter pointed out that the "access" to health care that Republicans have touted in their bill does not "equal coverage" for customers.

"We're getting rid of the individual mandate, we're getting rid of these things that people said they don't want," said Chaffetz, referring to the Obamacare requirement that most Americans have health coverage or pay a fine.

"And, you know what? Americans have choices, and they've got to make a choice, so maybe rather than getting that new iPhone that they just love, and they want to spend hundreds of dollars on, maybe they should invest in their own health care," Chaffetz said.

"They've got to make those decisions themselves," added Chaffetz, who is chairman of the House Committee on Government Oversight and Reform.

Chaffetz also said, "Yes, I think that's fair," when asked if it is possible that fewer Americans would end up with insurance coverage under the Republican replacement plan for Obamacare.

Twitter users quickly responded to Chaffetz's remarks, contrasting them with their own health-care situations:





In 2014, the Institute for Policy Studies said the Obamacare tax cap on deductions for insurance executives' salaries had generated more than $72 million in extra revenue for the federal government.

That amount, $72 million, is equal to the retail price of about 110,771 iPhone 7s, which were selling for $649.99 apiece from Verizon Wireless on Tuesday.

The institute said that for the 2013 tax year, the nation's largest insurer, UnitedHealth, paid $19 million more in corporate taxes as a result of the Obamacare rule.

Correction: This story was revised to correct that Chaffetz made his comments on Tuesday.