Jewish World Review Oct. 18, 2002 / 12 Mar-Cheshvan, 5763
Drs. Michael A. Glueck & Robert J. Cihak
Congress to senior patients: Do as we say not as we do for ourselves
Congressional scandals come in two varieties. One involves criminality,
malfeasance, dark and secret things. The other involves what they do
legally, right out in the open, not caring much who notices or complains.
It's time to notice the scandal of Congressional health insurance - the
kind they provide for themselves and almost nine millions active and
retired federal employees. And it's time to complain. Not because theirs is
too good: We certainly don't begrudge them that. The scandal is that
they're unwilling to let senior Americans enjoy the same level of choice
A recent national poll by McLaughlin & Associates for the United Seniors
Association, released on Sept. 25, 2002, reveals a large discrepancy
between the Medicare medical coverage Congress legislates for seniors and
what members of Congress provide for themselves and other federal
government employees. If medical care were a restaurant, Congress would be
offering seniors a no-choice fast-food snack. Seniors say they want a
variety of healthy meals. Meanwhile, federal employees mandate a gourmet
selection for themselves.
The McLaughlin survey polled 800 likely voters over the age of 50 on
September 4-8, 2002. The accuracy is within +/- 3.5% at a 95% confidence
interval. The results are clear.
Senior voters want:
What seniors don't want is also clear. They don't want:
- Voluntary - not mandatory - choice of health and prescription drug
- Voluntary and affordable access to safe, quality medicines.
- Their own doctors, not the government, identifying what's important for
- Minimal bureaucracy and government intervention.
Put differently, seniors want what retired federal government employees
already have: choices. Under the Federal Employees Health Benefits program
(FEHBP), insurance companies design health plans to appeal to federal
government employees and retirees in different circumstances and in
different parts of the country. For next year, these private health plans
are competing to enroll federal employees in one of 188 - yes, 188 -
different health insurance plans. Each person has the opportunity to choose
the option best suited to that person's medical wants and desires.
- To be forced to leave their current prescription plan and enter a
- One-size fits all government-run health care.
- Government bureaucrats controlling what medicines they can get.
- Government interfering in their relationship with their own doctors.
As Robert Moffit, Ph.D., a former Assistant Director of the United States
Office of Personnel Management, recently wrote: "Unlike many retirees in
the private employer-based health insurance system, federal retirees
enrolled in the FEHBP have routine access to the full range of health
benefits available to active federal employees and are not burdened by
extraordinary rate increases or cutbacks in benefits or coverage."
Next year, the American Postal Workers Union (APWU), a large postal
employees' union, will offer federal employees (not just postal service
employees) a health-care spending account worth $1,000 per person or $2,000
per family. Employees will be able to draw on this account to pay directly
for routine medical expenses, and any money left over in the account will
accumulate and be available in following years, similar to a Medical
Savings Account plan.
Moffit also writes "FEHBP enrollees will be able to have access to flexible
spending accounts (FSAs), a tax-free health-care account now available to
millions of workers in many private corporations for out-of-pocket payments
for medical services." This option "would allow federal workers to deposit
up to $3,000 a year in an account tax free to pay for out-of-pocket
expenses and up to $5,000 a year tax free for child care and the care of
The federal government's "Do as we say, not as we do" phenomenon is no new
thing. It didn't surprise us when the rhetoric of the Clinton health plan
of the early 90s, supposedly "good for all Americans," wasn't good enough
for Congress. Members of Congress sought to exempt themselves and other
federal employees from the plan. They and the government employees' unions
pushed to continue the multiple choices available in their own FEHBP
instead of the Clinton proposal for a government-run monopoly.
However, when it comes to choices in medical care, "Do as we say" is not
acceptable. Congress should be "doing unto us what they do for themselves."
All the voters want is the freedom to choose the quality of care they want,
at least as good as the choices members of Congress gives themselves and
almost nine million other federal employees.
So call or write your Representatives and Senators now and give them the
message. After all, they're supposed to be working for you.
Enjoy this duo's work? Why not sign-up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.
Michael Arnold Glueck, M.D., is a multiple award winning writer who
comments on medical- legal issues. Robert J. Cihak, M.D., is past
president of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons.
JWR contributors are Harvard trained diagnostic radiologists.
Comment by clicking here.
10/11/02: Using pollution "scare labeling" to political advantage
10/04/02: The Great Asbestos Heist: Did Litigation and Junk Medical Science Helped Bring Down the World Trade Center?
09/27/02: The imminent rise of civic feminism: A far healthier national alternative in war and peace
09/20/02: A Ray A Day" to replace the daily apple?
09/13/02: Beware of celebrities hawking drugs
09/06/02: Avoid 9/11 overdose: Give blood to begin "September of Service," SOS
08/28/02: From Doubleday to strikeday: Baseball's collective anxiety attack
08/23/02: Should she or shouldn't she?: An alternative view on treating menopause with HRT
08/16/02: Cooking up defenses against germ warfare
08/02/02: Medicine, crime and canines
07/26/02: Lies, pathologic lies and the Palestinians
07/19/02: Medicare Drug Follies … as in "now you see it, now you don't"
07/12/02: Anti-Profiling: A New Medically False Belief System
07/08/02: Don't procrastinate, vaccinate!
06/28/02: The scientific advances on the safe and effective deployment of DDT are being ignored, or denied. Why?
06/21/02: Sex and the system: In seeking healthcare men are different from women
06/14/02: The FDA, drug companies and life-saving drugs: Who's the fox and who's the hen now?
06/07/02: Medical Privacy Lost: A hippo on the healthcare back!
05/24/02: To clean up America's game: A (soggy) ground rule
05/10/02: Free speech is good medicine
05/03/02: Medicine's Vietnam
04/26/02: Attack on alternative medicine could lead to alternative lawsuits
04/12/02: Insure the 'crazies'?
04/09/02: No Time for Litmus Tests: In War We Need a Surgeon General and NIH, CDC, and FDA Directors
04/02/02: The scoop on soot: A dirty rotten shame?
03/22/02: Too many beautiful minds to waste: The first annual Caduceus Movie
03/15/02: Terror and transformation: Defense essential for health & state of mind
03/08/02: Diagnosis: Delusional
03/06/02: The great matzah famine
03/01/02: Is new Hippocratic Oath hypocritical?
02/15/02: Why the recent moaning about cloning?
02/08/02: Searching for Dr. Strangelove
01/15/02: Score one for the value of human life
01/04/02: Medical-legal-financial wake-up call
12/28/01: Who's afraid of a 'dirty bomb'?
12/21/01: End of medicine?
12/14/01: More heroes: Docs deserve a little credit after 9/11
11/16/01: Do we need 'Super Smallpox Saturdays'?
11/09/01: Why the post-9-11 health care debate will never be the same
11/01/01: Common sense good for our mental health
10/26/01: Your right to medical privacy --- even in terror time
10/12/01: Failed immigration policy ultimately bad for nation's mental health: Enemy within leads to epidemic of jumpy nerves
09/28/01: Can legal leopards change their spots: A treat instead of a trick
09/21/01: Civil defense again a civic duty
08/30/01: Shut down this government CAFE
08/23/01: School Bells or Jail Cells?
08/15/01: Time to take coaches to the woodshed
08/10/01: Blood, Guts & Glory: The Stem of the Stem Cell controversy