Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) / REUTERS

Low-Income Americans Should Sacrifice iPhones for Healthcare, Says GOP Congressman

Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utahhas attempted to walk back his remarks Tuesday that low-income Americans should invest in their healthcare rather than buy an iPhone.

Speaking with Chaffetz on CNN’s “New Day” about the new Republican healthcare plan, Alisyn Camerota said, “Access for lower income Americans doesn’t equal coverage.”

“Well, we’re getting rid of the individual mandate,” Chaffetz responded. “We’re getting rid of those things that people said that they don’t want. And you know what, Americans have choices, and they’ve gotta make a choice. And 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 in their own healthcare. They’ve gotta make those decisions themselves.”

“So in other words, for lower income Americans, you’re saying that this is gonna require some sacrifice on their part,” Camerota said.

Chaffetz later told Fox News he didn’t make the point “smoothly” but that “people need to make a conscious choice and I believe in self-reliance.”

Healthcare costs per person have been estimated to be over $10,000 per year. In contrast, an iPhone 7 Plus with the maximum amount of storage available would cost $969 from Apple.

And most American adults do not upgrade their smartphones every year, Gallup reported. Only 2 percent said they buy a new phone every year or as soon as a new model is available, meaning most Americans are not paying the full sticker price for a brand new phone.

Chaffetz received harsh criticism on social media, where people pointed to the large difference between the cost of an iPhone and some of their medical bills.

Newly elected Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chairman Tom Perez in a statement called Chaffetz “a shameless hypocrite,” The Hill reported.

“He makes a six-figure taxpayer salary, has taxpayer subsidized healthcare, and he still thinks working Americans should be forced to choose between health insurance or owning a telephone,” Chaffetz said.

Indiana Republican Rep. Larry Bucshon on CNN called Chaffetz’s remarks “unwarranted at this time.”

“We don’t want people to make choices in their life having to choose healthcare and leaving out other parts of their life that everyone else enjoys,” he said.

The belief that cutting back on smaller, day-to-day expenses will have a significant impact in the long run, as Chaffetz implied, has become widely popular but some people have rejected this notion.

The Guardian analyzed this phenomenon in 2013, citing the research of Joseph Cohen, an assistant professor of sociology. According to Cohen, Americans’ spending on things such as food, clothes, alcohol and tobacco has been on the decline.

The Guardian reports:

“Where did the money go Consider your own circumstances, and you’re likely to see the most common increases in spending. During the same period of time, we spent almost 20% more on housing and 32% more on healthcare, which includes a more than 100% rise in the cost of health insurance and 41% of pharmaceuticals. Education An astonishing 60% increase. Gas went up by 23% and auto insurance by 29%.”

Rolling Stone questioned whether or not a smartphone can be considered a “luxury” in today’s society, particularly when it comes to being accessible for work:

“Moreover, it’s questionable how much of a luxury a smartphone actually is. In a world where it’s perfectly legal to demand fast-food and retail workers be available to report to work on a few hours’ notice, woe to the employee who isn’t easily reachable. And as computers become more and more critical to our daily lives, it’s hard to question wanting a lower-cost one, which is what an iPhone is, essentially.”

The Republican healthcare plan’s first draft was unveiled on Tuesday and has been heavily criticized. It would no longer require Americans to purchase medical insurance but would provide a tax credit between $2,000 and $4,000. The plan would go into effect in 2020.

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