No, members of Congress do not get free medical care for life

Becoming a member of Congress has its perks, but a popular social media rumor about their health insurance is false.

Some members of Congress have described their medical insurance as the standard to beat. In fact, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York tweeted in October 2020 that she wants everyone in the United States to have the same health care she receives as a member of Congress. 

A couple of months later when top Congressional leaders became eligible to receive the first COVID-19 vaccinations in Dec. 2020, Arizona state senator Wendy Rogers and Gravity Payments CEO Dan Price claimed on Twitter that Congress gets free health care. Now, VERIFY viewer Keith wants to know if members of Congress receive free medical care for their entire lives. 

THE QUESTION

Do members of Congress get free medical care for life?

THE SOURCES 

THE ANSWER

This is false.

No, members of Congress do not get free medical care for life, or even while serving in office.

WHAT WE FOUND

The rumor of free health care for members of Congress first started circulating before the Affordable Care Act was signed into law by former President Barack Obama in 2010. Months before the bill passed, an amendment introduced by Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley was approved that required members of Congress and congressional staff to access health insurance through the newly-created health exchanges, as North Carolina Rep. Virginia Foxx points out on her website. 

“Members of Congress pay part of the premium each month, which varies based on which plan is chosen,” according to Foxx. 

Meanwhile, the Congressional Institute also debunks the “Congress receives special health care” myth on its website. 

“Members of Congress and their staff must use an Obamacare plan, unless they receive health care via a spouse’s or parent’s plan or otherwise purchase one without the government contributing to its premiums,” said the Congressional Institute. “Members of Congress may not participate in the Federal Health Benefits Program, in which most federal workers participate. If a member of Congress or staffer purchases insurance through the DC Health Link exchange, the government – as with many other employers – will pick up a share of the cost.”

The Congressional Institute says members of Congress do have access to an attending physician who “provides on-site health services to members of Congress, the Supreme Court, staff members, official visitors and the tens of thousands of tourists coming to the U.S. Capitol each year.” The lawmakers can also receive non-emergency care, like vaccine distribution, but they must pay an annual fee to access it. 

While in office, representatives and senators also contribute to Medicare, according to the Congressional Institute, but the Congressional Research Service says lawmakers do not have any other health insurance-related retirement benefits.

“Members of Congress contribute to Medicare just like every other working American. They are eligible to receive benefits for which they qualify,” said the Congressional Institute. “The U.S. Code section on Medicare Part A, hospital insurance, does not contain any exemptions for members of Congress, but rather levies a tax ‘on the income of every individual.’”

More from VERIFY: Yes, the Affordable Care Act has survived all Supreme Court challenges

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