Last September Sen. Barack Obama promised that under his health-care proposal “you’ll be able to get the same kind of coverage that members of Congress give themselves.” On Monday, President Obama repeated that promise in a speech to the American Medical Association. It’s not true.
The president is barnstorming the nation, urging swift approval of legislation that is taking shape in Congress. This legislation — the Affordable Health Choices Act that’s being drafted by Sen. Edward Kennedy’s staff and the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee — will push Americans into stingy insurance plans with tight, HMO-style controls. It specifically exempts members of Congress (along with federal employees; the exemptions are in section 3116).
Members of Congress “enjoy the widest selection of health plans in the country,” according to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. They “can choose from among consumer-driven and high deductible plans that offer catastrophic risk protection with higher deductibles, health saving/reimbursable accounts and lower premiums, or fee-for-service (FFS) plans, and their preferred provider organizations (PPO), or health maintenance organizations (HMO).” These choices would be nice for all of us, but they’re not in the offing. Instead, if you don’t enroll in a “qualified” health plan and submit proof of enrollment to the federal government, you’ll be tracked down and fined (sections 3101 and 6055).
I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that Kennedy’s MedFlight helicopter ride from Cape Cod to Mass General, his diagnostic testing, his treatment at Duke and his continuing care would not be covered under the plan he intends to force Americans into purchasing.