LISBON - U.S. Rep.-elect Bill Johnson announced he will forgo congressional health insurance when he takes office as a gesture of support for the many Americans struggling during the recession.
"This is one substantial way I can show that my commitment to the people of eastern and southern Ohio is to help them, not to gain exclusive benefits for myself," he said, in a news release issued by his office.
Johnson is not be going to be without health insurance coverage, however. He has health insurance available to him as a retired U.S. Air Force officer.
Johnson, a Republican, defeated Democratic incumbent Charlie Wilson in the Nov. 2 election to become the next U.S. representative for the 12-county Sixth Congressional District in 2011, which includes Columbiana County.
A critic of the federal health insurance reform plan adopted this year by Congress, Johnson said Congress must work to repeal what he calls "ObamaCare."
"I oppose ObamaCare because government-controlled health care will create more debt and huge bureaucracy. We need to reverse the government takeover of our health care, and we should adopt common-sense, patient-centered, private-sector solutions like making health care portable from job to job and state to state, tort reform and promoting health-savings account," Johnson said.
He is also declining to participate in the 401K program and associated matching portion available to congressmen.
The issue of Republicans who want to repeal the health care bill but take congressional health insurance has drawn criticism from Democrats, a group of whom sent a letter to GOP leaders, telling them anyone who opts to do so is basically a hypocrite.
"You cannot enroll in the very kind of coverage that you want for yourselves, and then turn around and deny it to Americans who don't happen to be members of Congress ... If your conference wants to deny millions of Americans affordable health care, your members should walk that walk," they wrote.