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What Kind of Benefits Does Congress Really Get?

They're far less lavish than critics claim

How their health care plan works

Members of Congress participate in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program along with about 8 million federal workers, retirees and their dependents. They are subject to the same rules and receive the same coverage. Compared with health plans offered by private employers, the FEHBP offers more choices — in fact, "the widest selection of health plans in the country," according to the Office of Personnel Management.

Congress members are also eligible for Medicare, and pay the same 1.45 percent tax on their salary as do other workers.

A few extras

Congress members do receive some medical benefits beyond those available to regular federal workers.

For an annual payment of $503, members can receive routine care from the Office of the Attending Physician, which has facilities in the Capitol. ABC News reported last year that these services include physicals and other examinations, on-site X-rays and lab work, physical therapy and referrals to medical specialists.

In addition, current members (but not their dependents) can receive medical and emergency dental care at military hospitals and clinics. Inpatient care is covered by FEHBP insurance, but outpatient care is free if it's performed at facilities in the national capital region, such as Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland or Walter Reed Army Medical Center in the District of Columbia.

This benefit is likely the source of persistent online rumors that all medical care is free for Congress members.

Phil Scott is a New York-based journalist.

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