Several members of the 112th U.S. Congress — all GOP freshmen and all foes of President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) — made news this week when they announced they would forego enrollment in the Federal Employees' Health Benefits Plan, which offers health coverage at reduced rates to government employees. According to a 2009 survey by the Los Angeles Times, the average member of Congress receives about $700 per month in taxpayer-subsidized health care funds.
Among representatives turning down the benefit was Congressman Jeff Landry, R-New Iberia, who sent out a press release saying, "American taxpayers — burdened with near-record deficits — cannot afford to pay members of Congress, who already receive $174,000 a year salary, an additional benefit. ... The only way Congress will repeal Obamacare and fight for affordable health care is to have skin in the game."
Landry is a U.S. Army veteran who served in Operation Desert Storm and would therefore be eligible for Veterans Administration (VA) benefits, including VA insurance and hospitalization. Gambit called him this week to see how Landry and his family were managing their medical coverage.
"Congressman Landry is enrolled in an individual health savings account (HSA) policy," said Landry spokesman Millard Mule. "'It's an individual policy that he pays for himself. That's what he uses for health insurance."
According to guidelines set down by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, "If the veteran receives any health benefits from the VA or one of its facilities, including prescription drugs, in the last three months, he/she will not be eligible for an HSA." Several lawmakers — including former Sen. Larry Craig and U.S. Rep John Campbell — have introduced bills that would allow veterans to use HSAs in addition to their VA benefits. Health savings accounts were established as part of the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003, and signed into law by then-President George W. Bush. — Kevin Allman