During a CNN interview on Tuesday, Republican congressmen Jason Chaffetz said low-income Americans will have to invest in health care instead of "getting that new iPhone that they just love."
Chaffetz was discussing the Obamacare repeal, which critics have argued will take insurance away from low-income Americans and raise premiums for millions. His comment, which was taken as ill-informed by many, immediately went viral on Twitter and Facebook.
One tweet summed up the choice low-income Americans may be faced with:
The truth is, as artist John Lesnick's tweet pointed out, that Chaffetz's comments are misleading. As The Washington Post's Christopher Ingraham pointed out, iPhones and health care don't really come close to each other in cost.
"So let's say we get sick. We break a leg. We have to get lab work done. Our health isn't great, so we need a lot of medical care and max out on our deductible each year," Ingraham wrote. "Under the standard individual plan referenced above, that works out to about $18,000 in premiums and out-of-pocket expenses over two years. Or, for that span, the price of 23 iPhones."
Republicans are doing their best to position the plan as freeing up consumer choice, a pushback on the individual mandate that was part of Obamacare and required employers and healthy Americans to buy in unless they wanted to be punished. But, as liberal commentators have pointed out, there isn't much freedom if you can't afford health care.
Later in the day, Chaffetz went on Fox News to walk back his comments.
"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. "And they're going to have to make those decisions."
But it bears repeating just how hard those decisions already are for some Americans. In 2013, Pew found that just 13 percent of low-income Americans — those making less than $30,000 a year — had iPhones. Currently, about 40 million Americans are food insecure, meaning they don't know how or where they will get their next meal on a regular basis.
As CNN reported, these hard decisions were part of the reason Obamacare tried to make insurance affordable for all.
"Under Obamacare, more than seven in 10 enrollees could find coverage for $75 or less in 2017, thanks to subsidies," CNN reporter Eugene Scott wrote. "Without that government assistance, the average cost of a bronze plan — the cheapest available — would be $311 a month for a 30-year-old in 2017, according to Health Pocket."
So far, it appears liberals and Democrats aren't the only ones upset with the new health care plan. The House Freedom Caucus, known as the hardline financial conservatives in U.S. government, repudiated the plan publicly, calling it everything from Obamacare 2.0 to a "step in the wrong direction."
While the new health care plan offers tax breaks for the ultra-wealthy and insurance companies, it appears to do little to address health insurance that — even after help from Obamacare — is still so hard to afford for millions of low-incomes Americans.
Luckily, many politicians are echoing their constituents' concerns and, as evidenced by the above tweets, Americans are making their voices heard.
View related content below: