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Jason Chaffetz suggests poor people should buy healthcare instead of iPhones

Jason Chaffetz suggests poor people should buy healthcare instead of iPhones

Update: 2:47 P.M. E.T.

Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz has an easy solution for low-income Americans worrying that they can’t afford coverage under the GOP’s newly unveiled healthcare plan: Just don’t buy an iPhone.

“We’re getting rid of the individual mandate. We’re getting rid of those things that people said they don’t want. And you know what, Americans have choices,” Chaffetz, of Utah, said Tuesday on CNN’s “New Day.” “And they’ve got to make a choice. And 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 healthcare.”

Trouble is Chaffetz’s suggestion doesn’t quite sync with reality. Individual premiums now cost an annual average of $6,435, according to 2016 data from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit that tracks healthcare issues. 

And the price tag isn’t much better for workers supporting families, even if their employers help cover the costs. As of 2016, people contribute more than $5,000 annually to their family premiums. Even in 2008, before the Affordable Care Act, healthcare was far more expensive than an iPhone. At the time, insurance family premiums cost workers $3,354 each year, Kaiser found. (While the cost of healthcare premiums may appear to have risen dramatically between 2008 and 2016, the per-year increase has actually slowed significantly since 2011, according to Kaiser’s 2016 report.)

This isn’t the first time a politician has compared the cost of healthcare to the cost of an iPhone. Barack Obama once said that he expected plans in the Obamacare marketplace to be as expensive as the smartphone. But while iPhones can be pretty pricey — as of January 2017, the smartphone cost an average of nearly $700, according to the Verge — they’re nowhere near the annual costs associated with healthcare.

Later, while appearing on Fox News, Chaffetz attempted to clarify his controversial remarks. 

“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,” he said, adding, “As an American, you have got to make choices so sometimes, you have got to make decisions in your life and where to make those investments. In your health care, maybe a health savings account, which this plan that was introduced is very heavy on. Those are the types of things you need to make a choice and decision [about] in your life.”

Luckily for Chaffetz, he doesn’t face such choices — the congressman receives government provided health care and according to campaign filings, his campaign super PAC pays for his Verizon bill. The same campaign filings, the Intercept’s Lee Fang noted on Twitter, revealed a recent purchase for $738 — about the price of an iPhone — at the Apple store.

Cover: (REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

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