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The Insurance Congress Gets

Theresa BrownGold's painting "Speaker Boehner" for her art project, Art As Social Inquiry.

(Request for interview ignored January 2011. Oil on linen 40 ins. x 30 ins.)

2011. Oil on linen 40 ins. x 30 ins.

I do not intend to lampoon my sitters with art, a different kind of political expression. I want my portraits to start policy discussions. When I painted Speaker Boehner's portrait in 2011 (then Speaker of the House of Representatives) I hadn't realized this portrait (on right) ventures into caricature. Sooooo...I repainted Boehner's portrait in 2022 to right the record. I restarted the second portrait several times and he still "paints young." So be it.

Update 2021

Starting on January 1, 2014, House and Senate members and their staffs are required to obtain health insurance through the Affordable Care Act's online exchanges, sometimes called marketplaces. They are no longer eligible for health benefits under the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program as I define in this portrait story.


I didn't do myself any favors painting Speaker Boehner's portrait in this cartoon style. I did not actually try to.

I painted the portrait in 2011. I had only just started Art As Social Inquiry in 2008. I reenrolled in art school a few years before and only part-time at that. I didn't have control of my brushes. This painting is what happened so I accepted it. I also never met the Speaker in person. I like to get my subjects' vibes by meeting and talking to them. But that's no excuse. I painted respectable portraits of President Obama and Senator Romney for a ZDF Television program without having met them. Those paintings just happened too. If I had a do-over I would keep painting Speaker Boehner until I got something that was not so skewed.

Whatever the portrait, my message would not have wavered. People need access to healthcare and Speaker Boehner, as House Minority leader from 2007 until 2011 and then Speaker from 2011 - 2015 led his party in opposing the Affordable Care Act, President Obama's signature healthcare reform legislation. I speak to the Speaker directly at this rally.

Perhaps Speaker Boehner did not welcome the hardline stance against the ACA that his party demanded of him. A group of hardliners drove him from the speakership.

Artist Note (from 2011)

I have had no contact with the subject of this portrait and therefore made no "connection" with the real person behind the eyes. The portrait represents a public persona and as such I feel it leans, unintentionally and unfortunately, toward caricature. The soul never inhabited the form.

The portrait represents all our elected officials who have easy access to health insurance. Their health insurance benefits are paid in part by the many millions of uninsured and under-insured taxpayers who do not have access to the best medical care in the world enjoyed by our legislators.


(written in 2011)

Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, Republican John Boehner, Insured?, Age 61

Speaker Boehner's office denied my request for an interview. I cannot confirm that Speaker

Boehner participates in the Federal Employees Health Benefits

Program (FEHBP). I left my name and phone number with a receptionist at the Speaker's office to confirm his enrollment in the FEHBP.

Speaker Boehner's portrait represents the benefits packages available to our

Congress members and the more than 8 million other federal employees, retirees and their families.

The government (taxpayers) pays 72-75% of the premium cost. Members of Congress may also receive medical services from the in-house Office of The Attending Physician for an annual fee of about $500. They may also enjoy outpatient care at Washington D.C. area military hospitals at no cost. Ultimately the cost would be borne by the taxpayers who fund the Veterans Administration hospitals.

According to the Congressional Research Service, the FEHBP offers about 300 different private health care plans, including five government-wide, fee-for-service plans and many regional health maintenance organization (HMO) plans, plus high-deductible, tax-advantaged plans. All plans cover hospital, surgical and physician services, and mental health services, prescription drugs and catastrophic coverage against very large medical expenses. There are no waiting periods for coverage when new employees are hired, and there are no exclusions for preexisting conditions. The FEHBP negotiates contracts annually with all insurance companies who wish to participate. There is plenty of competition for the business. FEHBP is the largest employer-sponsored health plan in the U.S. House and Senate members (but not their families) also are eligible to receive care at military hospitals.

For outpatient care, there is no charge at the Washington, D.C., area hospitals -- Walter Reed Army Medical Center and National Naval Medical Center. Inpatient care is billed at rates set by the Department of Defense.


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