I frequently hear from constituents concerned about the false myth of free, lifetime benefits and health care plans for Members of Congress after serving one term, which is not true. While there are many things in Washington in need of reform and even some of the benefits of Members of Congress need to be looked at, misleading information continues circulating on the Internet and in general conversation.
I love legislating, but do you think some of my current colleagues would still be here if they could simply serve for one term before going home to free health care and a cushy pension plan?
Let me give you the facts.
â€˘ Contrary to popular belief, Members of Congress do not get â€śa full retirementâ€ť after serving one term. Members of Congress are covered under the Federal Employeesâ€™ Retirement System (FERS), the same retirement plan all other federal workers receive. It is true that Senators, because they serve a six-year term, are vested after one term, but that doesnâ€™t mean they get â€śa full retirement.â€ť As with most pension plans, the longer you serve, the more pension benefits you receive.
â€˘ Similarly, Members of Congress do not have special, premium health care plans. Instead, lawmakers are able to participate in the Federal Employeesâ€™ Health Benefit Program under the same rules as other federal employees.
Perhaps these benefits to all federal employees should be reviewed in light of current deficit and debt problems, but that would be for all federal employees, because Members of Congress are treated the same as other federal employees.
The Bay State Boondoggle
As we discuss federal spending and policies that should reflect common-sense American values, I should point out that the Affordable Care Act â€“ also known as Obamacare â€“ includes a provision that doesnâ€™t treat each of the respective States equally.
Before he was sworn in to serve as our Secretary of State, then-Senator John Kerry (D-MA) had a Medicare provision added to Obamacare that allowed for Medicare wage index changes to be paid for out of a national pool of money instead of out of each Stateâ€™s allocation. Urban hospitals in a State cannot get paid less than rural hospitals. If a State â€“ like Massachusetts â€“ has just one rural hospital receiving a special rural reimbursement rate, every hospital in that State receives the higher reimbursement.
Massachusettsâ€™ Nantucket Cottage Hospital is a 19-bed hospital on an island where the median home price is more than $1 million. This hospital pays more in wages â€“ perhaps because of the wealth of the islandâ€™s inhabitants and visitors â€“ than your typical hospital in Virginiaâ€™s Ninth District. The Nantucket Cottage Hospital receives the higher reimbursement rate, and accordingly, so do all of Massachusettsâ€™ hospitals. Because of Senator Kerryâ€™s provision, Virginiaâ€™s Ninth District â€“ with a median income of less than $40,000 â€“ is helping to pay for the health care of Massachusettsâ€™ residents and visitors.
This doesnâ€™t seem right to me. Does it seem right to you?
The good news is last week, a bill was introduced in the Senate that would repeal Senator Kerryâ€™s provision and reverse this problematic and unfair windfall â€“ the â€śBay State Boondoggle.â€ť It has already collected bipartisan support, including the support of Senator Mark Warner (D-VA).
Iâ€™m told that the House Committee on Ways and Means is working on legislation to repeal the provision. I will be sure to work for this and other common-sense proposals to improve the Obama administrationâ€™s health care law.
Donâ€™t tread on me
While doing some reading this weekend, I came across a new poll from the Pew Research Center indicating that a majority of Americans believe that Washington threatens their â€śpersonal rights and freedoms.â€ť
The Washington Post (www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/wp/2013/02/01/americans-to-washington-dont-tread-on-me/)
summarized the poll results, saying:
â€śâ€¦ Nearly two-fifths of Democrats (38 percent) say the government is a threat to them personally, as do 45 percent of non-gun owners.
â€śOverall, the percentage of Americans who view the federal government as a threat has increased from 36 percent in May 1995 to 53 percent today. â€¦â€ť
Around the district
During the District Work Period last week, I had the opportunity to meet with constituents in Abingdon, attend traveling staff hours in Martinsville, and also visit with people in the districtâ€™s â€śthree big Bâ€™sâ€ť â€“ Blacksburg, Bluefield, and Bristol. Common topics at these stops included immigration, gun control, health care, and jobs. I also was honored to present medals to a distinguished Vietnam veteran in Salem and attend the 2013 Virginia Beef Industry and State Dairymenâ€™s Convention. To view photos of the District Work Period, visit my photo page - www.flickr.com/photos/repmorgangriffith/
As always, if you have concerns or comments or wish to inquire about legislative issues, feel free to contact my offices. You can call my Abingdon office at 276-525-1405 or my Christiansburg office at 540-381-5671. To reach my office via email, please visit my website at www.morgangriffith.house.gov.