Why People Are Talking About This Congressman's Foot

April 27th 2017

Mike Rothschild

On April 26, House Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) announced that he'd be taking as much as a month off to recover from emergency surgery on a 12-year-old injury to his foot.

Under normal circumstances, Congressional podiatry is not a social media hot take generator. 

However, the Republican congressman announced his medical leave in the same week that another iteration of the replacement bill for the Affordable Care Act is being discussed. And the timing is not lost on the many Twitter users who called him out:

Chaffetz's surgery comes as Republicans debate the newest attempt to repeal and replace Obamacare, and as of now the replacement allows states to opt out of the ACA's pre-existing condition coverage rule. The ACA makes it so insurance companies have to cover people with pre-existing conditions, and it has impacted as many as one out of every two Americans, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

The new bill "would weaken protections for those with pre-existing conditions is by letting states apply for a waiver that would allow insurers to charge people different premiums based on their health status," according to an analysis by Time Magazine.

"States would also have the option, under the GOP-backed amendment, of establishing high-risk pools for state residents who would otherwise be unable to get coverage. These pools existed before Obamacare, and research showed they often failed to make coverage affordable and accessible," the Time piece continues.

The ACA's ban on pre-existing condition exclusions is one of the most popular parts of the law, even among conservatives, and the weakening of this law is a focal point of opposition to the new Republican bill.

Much of this ire was directed toward Chaffetz, particularly given his comments in March that people should "invest in their own health care" rather than "getting that new iPhone that they just love and they want to go spend hundreds of dollars on."

Beyond the health care debate, Rep. Chaffetz himself is under a lot of scrutiny.

Chaffetz announced on April 19 that he wouldn't be running for Congress again; the next day he told news outlets that he might not even finish his current term. (And the revelations set off a host of conspiracy theories, with everything from a Russian blackmail tape, to a money laundering investigation being cited as the "real" reason Chaffetz was leaving.)  


The Washington Post put forth an alternate theory: He wasn't enjoying having to run oversight on the Trump administration, rather than investigate Hillary Clinton. It was also speculated that he holds ambitions to run for governor in Utah, or even president at some future point. 

"My future plans are not yet finalized but I haven’t ruled out the possibility of leaving early," he wrote in a text to reporters after his April 19th announcement. "In the meantime I still have a job to do and I have no plans to take my foot off the gas.”

That foot, apparently, just needs a bit of a tune up.