Congress and health care

“Who would have the audacity to vote for repealing affordable health care for 32 million Americans while gladly accepting generous, federally subsidized insurance for themselves?” the protest email from Working Assets said today. “237 congressional health care hypocrites!”

The group is circulating a petition to force Congress to repeal its own health care.

True, Congress gets health care, but it’s not entirely immune from any repeal of the health care bill, symbolic though it may be. Neither are the other 1.3 million federal employees.

Members of Congress get the same insurance program that other federal workers get. Most of it is via private insurers. The health bill’s expansion to include children to age 26 and the ban on denying coverage because of pre-existing conditions, also extended to federal workers and members of Congress.

If it were to be repealed, members of Congress would lose some of those benefits, too.

According to

Like other large employers, the government pays a large share of the cost of coverage. On average, the government pays 72 percent of the premiums for its workers, up to a maximum of 75 percent depending on the policy chosen. For example, the popular Blue Cross and Blue Shield standard fee-for-service family plan carries a total premium of $1,120.47 per month, of which the beneficiary pays $356.59. Washington, D.C.-based employees who prefer an HMO option might choose the Kaiser standard family plan. It carries a total premium of $629.46 per month, of which the employee pays only $157.36.

In addition, members of Congress also qualify for some medical benefits that ordinary federal workers do not. They (but not their families) are eligible to receive limited medical services from the Office of the Attending Physician of the U.S. Capitol, after payment of an annual fee ($491in 2007). But services don’t include surgery, dental care or eyeglasses, and any prescriptions must be filled at the member’s expense.

In a 2007 analysis, the Congressional Research Service said the portion of insurance premiums paid for by the federal government (the employer) is less favorable than the average in the private sector. But, the report said, federal workers have a wider range of choices in insurance providers. And the growth in premiums has been slower for the federal plans than the private sector, which is also eliminating health insurance at a greater clip.

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