Throughout this entire health care debate, and to my knowledge, conspicuously missing in either a Democratic or Republican version of the bill, is any reference to, or discussion of, dismantling, revising or eliminating the health care coverage available to our Congressional leaders or other elected and/or appointed officials; or at least, offering the same coverage Congress receives under the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program to all Americans.
While so many Americans are without health care coverage, or can't afford it, members of Congress, who can insure their spouses and dependents, become entitled to the best health care benefits available. They have the choice of so many different plans (at least 10 healthcare plans and several HMOs – does this extend beyond state lines), and these people don't have to worry about preconditions or about having coverage denied. They're applications are stamped, "Approved" before the ink even dries.
And who pays for most of this coverage, you guessed it, US taxpayers, many of whom do not have enough money to pay for their own coverage. I understand that we, the taxpayers, pay for up to 75% of this coverage because it is paid by the government. (It is interesting how we are the government when it comes to paying the bills, but somewhat ignored, and replaced by special interests and corporations, when it comes to legislation). According to the Office of Personnel Management, US taxpayers spent about $15 billion last year to insure 8.5 million federal workers and their dependents, including postal service employees; I wonder how much of this amount is attributed to covering Congress and other elected and appointed officials.
I found an example that illustrates this point, if a federal worker subscribes to family coverage through Blue Cross Blue Shield the cost is around $1,030 monthly; taxpayers pay $700 and employees pay the rest. Through this plan, visiting a doctor costs $20; generic prescriptions cost $10; immunizations are free; and there is no coverage limit.
It does get a bit better for the elite in Congress, lawmakers can tailor coverage in a way that eludes most of us commoners, for example, if a child has asthma, a federal employee might opt for coverage that costs a little more but has a bigger doctor network and lower office-visit fees.
And in usual Congressional fashion, the perks don't end there; our representatives have on-site (between House and Senate Chambers) access to doctors, nurses, technicians; they can get X-rays and physical exams; and there's a pharmacy right there. OK, they pay extra for this "Cadillac" service, but House members make $174,000 a year (the Speaker gets $223,500); Senators make the same $174,000 (the President pro tem takes in $193,400). Although these perks are paid for, it has been estimated that they still cost taxpayers $2 million a year.
There is one person in Congress (the only member of Congress), Rep. Steve Kagen, Democrat from Wisconsin, who refuses to accept federal healthcare benefits and he said in an interview, "he will continue until everyone in America can enjoy the same coverage as federal lawmakers."
And, Sen. Tom Coburn, Senator from Oklahoma, sponsored an amendment requiring members of Congress to forgo their current health coverage and enroll in any government plan they pass to compete with private insurers. His rallying cry was, "let's demonstrate leadership and confidence in the system." Coburn's amendment passed through the Senate Health Committee, but a similar measure was defeated in the House.
So I imagine that Pelosi's version of the bill doesn't address this issue even though her communications director, Brendan Daly, tried this one on us, under the guise of choice, "the point is to give people a choice… If you like what you have now, you can keep it. If you don't like it, you'll have other choices that are available to you." Now given that choice, what will our illustrious legislators opt for?
As our political royalty continue to empathize with the people they, cough, represent; it is rather obvious that they care only for themselves. Despite the rhetoric and smoke screens, they are incapable of or are disinclined to offer the same types of healthcare security that they take advantage of to the people they allegedly speak for.