Grassley: “go work for the federal government”

Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) has been holding a series of meetings around the state during the congressioanl recess.  It appears the Service Employees International Union has been sending a person with a video camera to each event.  During a Grassley town hall meeting in Waukon, Iowa, on Tuesday, June 30, Grassley was questioned by a man in the audience about health care.  Specifically, a "public option" that would give this gentleman the right to purchase the same plan Grassley gets as a United States senator.

Watch the brief video.

I made a transscript in case you don't want to watch.

The man in the audience: "I pay about $3700 a year for a $1000 deductible and a $5000 maximum out of pock.  My question is, if I'm right on this, why is your insurance so much cheaper than my insurance and better than my insurance?"

A couple of people clapped.  The man in the audience continued to speak: "I think that I should have the same insurance that you have, health insurance."

Another man in the audience says, "Senator Grassley."

The man who asked the question continues: "Am I right on that, on how much you pay?"

Grassley replied: "I can tell you what percentage I pay.  I pay 32 percent."

The man who asked the question interjected: "32 percent."

Grassley continued:  "Of the cost, yes."

The man repeated Grassley's answer: "Of the cost."

Grassley continued: "And if you want a better insurance policy, go work for John Deere.  They don't pay anything."

The man shot back: "I'm asking you.  I don't care about John Deere.  I don't work for John Deere."

Grassley replied:  "And I've answered your question.  I just answered it.  So why did you yell at me, 'Why didn't I answer your question?' I said I pay 32 percent.

The man replied: "O.K."

Grassley tried to move on: "Who's next?"

The man continued with his line of questioning, however:  "How much deductible?"

Grassley answered: "I don't know that, but I can get you that information, but I don't carry it here." (Grassley gestured to his head.)

A woman in the back of the room who likely works for the Farm Service Agency, given Grassley's reference to her a few seconds later, interjected herself into the mix:  "Senator, I think you're on the same plan I am and I think we have a $250 deductible, a 20 percent co-pay."

Grassley picks up the conversation again:  "Yeah," Grassley said, then directs the man elsewhere for details.  "Why don't you go ask the people at the Farm Service Administration because we've got the same plan federal employees have?"

The woman in the back of the room affirms Grassley's answer: "Right."

The man, undeterred, continues:  "OK.  OK.  How come I can't I have the same thing you have?"

Grassley replies:  "You can.  Go work for the federal government." 

The crowd laughs and the video ends.

Grassley's comment has hit the blogosphere. The Huffington Post featured a story about this exchange last Thursday.  (I received a link to the video from SEIU last Friday; HuffPo got a link the day before.)  Think Progress suggests Grassley voluntarily give up his government plan and try his luck on the private market.  A diarist Daily Kos did some math.

UPDATE:  Grassley's Tweet about the Waukon meeting makes no specific mention of this question. "Waukon Town Meeting A constituent counted 200. Biggest turnout ever in Waukon. Health Care and "Obama power grab" biggest issues," Grassley wrote after the meeting. 

Grassley was also a guest on Face the Nation this weekend. 

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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.