Today’s society is beset by “urban legends” — rumors spread widely on the Internet that are not true.
One of the current urban legends making the rounds is that members of Congress get free health care. That is particularly in vogue today because Congress is spending much of this year debating how to reform the health care system for all the rest of us.
As a former member of Congress who represented Texas for 26 years, I know something about this subject from firsthand experience.
While in Washington, members of the House and Senate are entitled to routine treatment from the Capitol physician’s office with referral to either Walter Reed Army Medical Center or Bethesda Naval Hospital for anything serious. Members pay an annual fee for this privilege, which is like belonging to an HMO.
However, this coverage does not extend to a member’s family (spouse and minor children) and does not cover any illness or injury when a member is back in his or her home state.
In order to get health coverage for family members or for themselves when back home, members are treated like all other federal employees (such as clerks at the Agriculture Department or lawyers in the Justice Department). Thus, members of Congress are eligible to sign up for one of the variety of “cafeteria plans” offered under the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program.
Filed under: Health Care
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