When it comes to Congress’s health care, money is no problem

One of the things that the current pandemic has exposed is the utter cruelty, inefficiency, and inadequacy of the private, employer-based health care system in the US. If you are well-to-do and don’t mind dealing with the tedious paperwork or have other people do it for you, this may not be a concern, because you can buy good health care. It turns out it is also not a problem if you are member of Congress since, as Lee Fang reports, they have an excellent system and in the recently passed pandemic stimulus bill, they quietly included additional funding for themselves. Even those Republicans who rail against any proposals that seek to provide universal health care are more than happy to take advantage of their tax-payer funded health care system. So is Democrat Nancy Pelosi, an adamant opponent of Medicare For All.

Members of Congress have what is known as a concierge health care system that gives them priority when trying to access health care services.

IN MID-MARCH, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., became one of the first lawmakers to announce he had Covid-19, after testing positive for the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

He received his diagnosis promptly from congressional doctors employed by the Office of the Attending Physician, and recovered by early April. Coronavirus testing was made available early and often for members of Congress, who enjoy concierge medical services courtesy of a world-class government health clinic.

Diaz-Balart, like many other voices on Capitol Hill, has denounced increased public spending on health services as a dangerous “government takeover of healthcare.” But like every lawmaker, he enjoys gold-plated medical care from OAP, which provides on-call services at taxpayer expense — and recently got a boost in funding.

Just months before the pandemic, lawmakers hiked funding for the OAP clinic, a move that has not been previously reported. The last congressional appropriations bill, passed in December, increased the budget for the office to $3,868,000 this year. Then, in March, the CARES Act, the sweeping $2.2 trillion bailout legislation, included a special provision that appropriated an additional $400,000 to the OAP clinic as part of a package of special funds to prepare the capital for coronavirus response and hygiene.

All together, the OAP budget has increased more than 25 percent over the last decade. The move to secure the health and safety of lawmakers contrasts sharply with the policy focus of Congress, which has largely faced a stalemate over the expansion of low-cost health care services over the last decade. In the first weeks of the pandemic, few had access to the same rapid Covid-19 testing that was made available to lawmakers through the clinic.

THE OAP has been described as “some of the country’s best and most efficient government-run health care.”

Lawmakers are only charged around $600 in annual fees, which covers a small fraction of the costs for OAP operations. The vast majority of the budget comes from money delegated by the federal government. Even the low flat rate isn’t necessarily required. Some lawmakers who have declined to pay the nominal fee are not turned away from the clinic, according to previous reports.

Yes, even if congress people do not pay their premiums, they still get these premium services. Imagine what happens to ordinary people who do not pay their health insurance premiums.

These people are shameless.


  1. johnson catman says

    Shameless hypocrites absolutely. But . . . they got theirs, so fuck the rest of us.

  2. lanir says

    I actually don’t think shameless is a good description because it makes it sound like they make a deliberate choice or that they otherwise actively snub us while helping themselves. I don’t think that’s happening.

    I think this is the 1930’s all over again. Ivory towers and dust bowls. They aren’t choosing to prioritize the needs of some people (themselves) while deliberately ignoring the more pressing needs if many others (the vast majority of us). Most of them are just rich and normal people aren’t people to them. They’re a collection of faerie tales about people they don’t know and don’t see much.

    I don’t think this absolves them, not in the slightest. But if we want to know the real reason Nancy Pelosi and AOC have different viewpoints I think that’s it. One of them has more than a few friends who aren’t rich. The other has a visibility problem that largely precludes understanding the needs of most Americans . And until we get over the idea that someone more like us is more likely to take bribes to enrich themselves when we already know richer people do this as a standard operating procedure, we’ll be stuck with leaders whose idea of helping us is to show slightly more discernment about which faerie tales they believe about our lives, all the while lacking any real understanding of what those lives look like up close.

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