THE BLOG
05/02/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Congress Should Try Living Like the 30 Million Americans Without Health Insurance

If you did not have health insurance, wouldn't you try to figure out a way to get it? Wouldn't you try to figure out how to fix Medicare and Medicaid costs long-term?

Perhaps the House and Senate should live without insurance for a while? Perhaps then they would do something.

I have spent the last few days face to face with health care in the United States. See, my dad (80) is dying of mesothelioma (he acquired asbestos working for Johns Manville while working his way through college in the early 50's) and he underwent surgery yesterday, nearly dying on the operating table. Late today I left him joking with the nurses in a private room (arranged because the Hospital is asking me to serve on the Foundation Board) after spending the night in ICU.

My dad is dying. My dad is scared -- as is my mom. But, he is getting extraordinary care because he has great insurance and a rich son. He is not thinking about paying for his health care while he struggles with death. My mom is not worried about going bankrupt because of my dad's bills as she realizes the 57 years of life with her husband is ending.

My dad will hopefully go home soon to die on his farm. He will have everything he needs -- all paid for by insurance.

Like my dad and mom, Congress has good health insurance. House and Senate members are allowed to purchase private health insurance (paid for by taxpayers) offered through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP). According to the Congressional Research Service, the FEHBP offers about 300 different private health care plans, including five government-wide, fee-for-service plans and many regional health maintenance organization (HMO) plans, plus high-deductible, tax-advantaged plans. All plans cover hospital, surgical and physician services, and mental health services, prescription drugs and "catastrophic" coverage against very large medical expenses. There are no waiting periods for coverage when new employees are hired, and there are no exclusions for preexisting conditions. 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. House and Senate members (but not their families) also are eligible to receive care at military hospitals.

So, what if the House and Senate were facing what my dad and mom are facing, but doing it without insurance? That is a far too easy of an answer.

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