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August 7th, 2009
04:28 PM ET

No free health-care ride for Congress

Martin Frost
For POLITICO.com

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.

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Filed under: Health Care
soundoff (6 Responses)
  1. lampe

    I am a Democrat, who is having problems believing in a Program, that no Democrat, can give one straight answer about. This has nothing to do with Republicans, if Democrats, can't answer single questions at TownHall meetings, how do they expect anyone to belive in their program?

    August 7, 2009 at 7:50 pm |
  2. JC- Los Angeles

    A former member of Congress defending members of the House, imagine that.

    Maybe you all discussed your healthcare concerns at Congressional's 19th hole after a taxpayer funded round of golf.

    Or perhaps at a Georgetown watering hole like Nathan's; or maybe while sitting in a nice leather chair in your taxpayer provided second home.

    Sell crazy someplace else.

    August 7, 2009 at 7:31 pm |
  3. Annie Kate

    The GOP has a lot of people scared of changing anything – I really expected this but I would like at some point to be pleasantly surprised if the GOP would at some point 1) agree with the democrats because its what is good for the country or 2) come up with a comparative program – a novel idea I think when i look at general GOP tactics. Until they have something constructive to say I think they ought to be quiet – after all most of the time the costs were rising the GOP was in office.l

    August 7, 2009 at 7:30 pm |
  4. Melissa

    I commend your effort to clear up the lies but it won't work. Too many Republican followers want to believe Republican lies.

    August 7, 2009 at 5:20 pm |
  5. Jane

    Has there been any discussion about all of the health care plans that are already paid for by our taxes and are a benefit included in so many other jobs across the country, besides senators, like policemen, firemen, teachers, social workers, librarians, health department, secretary of state workers, and the list goes on, not to mention all of the jobs that exist from the huge amount of money that is paid to medical facilities from Medicare and Medicaid?

    Just wondered.

    August 7, 2009 at 5:16 pm |
  6. RLWellman

    All I want is a plan that is good enough for my kids. I want the same plan available to the Congressmen and Senator's kids. Why is this asking too much? It's time we get the same coverage as them!

    August 7, 2009 at 5:12 pm |