By Dustin Hurst | Watchdog.org
HELENA — State Rep. James Knox is cutting the fat, but it won’t impact Montana taxpayers one way or the other.
A number of left-leaning blogs and Twitter tweeps have blasted Knox in recent weeks and months for leaving the state to pursue work while keeping the health insurance Montana gives to state lawmakers at a minimal cost.
“Some constituents want to know why Knox — a loud and proud member of the Tea Party movement that took the Montana legislature by storm in the 2010 elections — has decided to keep collecting the free government healthcare that is given to all legislators,” wrote the vile Montana Cowgirl blog earlier this year. “Presumably, this is the reason that he has not resigned.”
The issue is particularly weighty now as Knox next week submits to gastric bypass surgery, a procedure costing more than $20,000.
Knox denies he’s using his Montana-backed Blue Cross Blue Shield insurance supplied to state lawmakers to cover the surgery.
“Hell no,” he said flatly on a Friday afternoon call with Watchdog.org.
The rotund Republican, tipping the scales at 325, left Montana in August 2011 searching for a better life for himself and his family. He ended up in the Houston-area with a financial services firm.
He said he dropped his state health coverage after leaving the state. He didn’t resign, because, well, he didn’t have to. After consulting with the secretary of state’s office, he said he understood that no law prevented him from fulfilling his duties from Texas, as long as he served his constituents.
Knox will go under the knife Dec. 3 for the procedure with a goal of shedding more than 100 pounds. His new employer’s health plan will cover most of the cost, though Knox will shell out a little more than $3,000 of his own cash.
The state insurance also covered the procedure, but at a higher out-of-pocket cost, Knox said.
“My insurance is a lot better at work,” he said, noting differences between the health coverage offered by the state and his new employer.
Unabashed amusement washed over his demeanor throughout the telephone interview. He wondered aloud why some folks would obsess over his too-large belly and not Montana’s too-large state government, which he said wastes enormous amount of taxpayer cash.
“I’d like people to start focusing on the state of Montana,” he said.
As Knox embarks on his personal journey to better health, he turned to the future.
“You’ve got to make the lifestyle changes,” he said, adding that the surgery it “just a tool.”
Contact Dustin Hurst at [email protected] or @DustinHurst via Twitter.
— Edited by Kelly Carson, [email protected]