These Democrats Say Health Care Is a Human Right for All, Except Their Campaign Staff

April 21, 2022

Many Democratic congressional members and candidates call health care a human right but do not provide coverage for their campaign staffers, a Washington Free Beacon review of financial disclosures shows.

Rep. Kurt Schrader's campaign site, for example, says the Oregon Democrat "understands that having access to health care should be a basic right for every single American." He does not offer campaign employees a group health care plan, Federal Election Commission records show. Rep. Tom Malinowski's (N.J.) site, meanwhile, calls health care a "human right" and argues "we need to treat it that way." Fellow House Democrat Tom O'Halleran (Ariz.) has called health care a matter of "life or death … for many people." The two Democrats have not provided health care to campaign staffers since January 2019 and January 2021, respectively.

The hypocrisy also applies to some of the Democratic Party's top congressional recruits. California's Jay Chen, Ohio's Greg Landsman, and Michigan's Hillary Scholten do not offer their employees group benefits, according to FEC disclosures. Chen has argued health care "should be a basic right," while Landsman and Scholten have called it a "right" and "human right," respectively. All three Democrats are featured on the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's "highly competitive" Red to Blue program.

Those Democrats' decision not to provide health care for campaign employees is at odds with many of the party's top members. Rep. Haley Stevens (D., Mich.), for example, began paying Blue Care Network of Michigan for employee health benefits in January, FEC records show. On the presidential campaign trail, Pete Buttigieg was the only top 2020 Democratic candidate to not provide coverage to his workers—he instead provided them a monthly stipend to buy insurance on their own. In addition to offering group benefits to their presidential campaign staff, Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D., N.Y.), Cory Booker (D., N.J.), and Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) also extend health coverage to their Senate campaign workers, according to FEC records.

Schrader, Chen, and Scholten told the Free Beacon that, like Buttigieg, their campaigns pay staffers stipends that can be used to purchase insurance. O'Halleran campaign manager JoAnna Mendoza, meanwhile, said "everyone on our team has health insurance," thanks in part to "family coverage" and "other sources." Mendoza added that the campaign is "committed to ensuring anyone we hire is offered full benefits as well."

Democrats and media members have argued that a campaign's use of stipends to cover health care costs is inadequate. In 2019, former Missouri Democratic senator Claire McCaskill advised Buttigieg to offer employees group benefits after NBC News revealed that the former South Bend mayor did not do so. "I think that's the way to handle it," McCaskill said during an MSNBC appearance. Then-Associated Press White House reporter Jonathan Lemire agreed, calling the ordeal the campaign's "first sort of misstep."

Malinowski and Landsman did not return requests for comment.

In addition to Schrader, other swing-district Democratic representatives who have declared health care to be a "right" also provide staffers a stipend instead of offering group benefits. According to FEC records, Colin Allred (D., Texas) and Katie Porter (D., Calif.) both offer campaign staffers monthly "health care stipends" that range from $250 to $350. But those stipends are merely "additional payments to an employee" that do not need to be used for health care, Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust executive director Kendra Arnold told the Free Beacon. Staffers must also pay taxes on those stipends, Arnold said. Allred has called "access to quality and affordable health care" a "right" that "too many" of his constituents "have been denied for too long," while Porter's campaign site says health care "is a human right."