Congressman suggests poor Americans should give up iPhones for health care

Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) says that Americans would have an easier time with health care costs if they stopped buying iPhones.

“Americans have choices, and they’ve gotta make a choice,” Chaffetz told CNN’s Alisyn Camerota this morning. “So maybe rather than getting that new iPhone that they just love and they wanna go spend hundreds of dollars on that, maybe they should invest it in their own health care. They’ve gotta make those decisions themselves.”

Chaffetz, a member of the House Judiciary Committee, was on CNN to talk up the Republicans’ newly unveiled Obamacare replacement plan, which offers tax cuts for the rich and will likely make it harder for low-income families to afford insurance.

The remark seems to woefully misunderstand the costs of health insurance and the tools people need to get by in the modern world. Smartphones are the primary way many people access the internet — a 2015 Pew study found that 13 percent of Americans rely on their phone to connect — and they’re often a necessity for maintaining a job, let alone finding one.

The iPhone’s high price isn’t much compared to the cost of health insurance, either. The Obama administration said that, after tax credits, only 77 percent of people alreadyusing the marketplace would be able to get a basic plan for under $ 100 per month this year. And the Kaiser foundation found that families had to pay an average of $ 5,277 for coverage even under an employer-sponsored plan.

Chaffetz seems to be aware that his comments came off poorly, though he isn’t backing away from the message. During an interview later in the morning with Fox News (transcribed by New York Times reporter Sopan Deb), Chaffetz said, “Maybe I didn’t say it as smoothly as I could, but people need to make a conscious choice and I believe in self-reliance. And they’re going to have to make those decisions.”

The Verge was unable to reach Chaffetz’s office to ask for comment.

While this comes off as a blunder for Chaffetz, he’s not alone in making ill-considered remarks on why some Americans can’t afford health care. President Obama was criticized in 2014 for saying that people may not be prioritizing health care over phone and TV service. Though he also enacted a landmark health care bill meant to drive down costs.

Vox has a breakdown of what’s in the Republicans’ plan to rework Obamacare if you’re interested in the finer details.

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