PREZ AND PALS ARE IN THE BEST OF HEALTH CARE
'THIS isn't about me," President Obama allows. "I have great health care."
So the president should -- but Obama's checkups aren't the problem. It's the fact that our nation's entire political class lives in an alternative health-care universe -- and will do so even after the rest of us are stuck with the disaster of ObamaCare. Start with the top White House staffers, assistants to the president. These are Obama's closest advisers, the people who have his ear.
Like most on the federal payroll, they have access to government-subsidized private insurance. But they can also get treatment above and beyond what is available anywhere else -- courtesy of outstanding military medical staff on-site at the White House and at the National Naval Medical Center at Bethesda. Bethesda is one of the world's top hospitals, with a staff of more than 4,500. There, according to people familiar with the situation, Obama's senior advisers have access to a health-care Shangri-La.
As one former senior White House official put it: "If you were an assistant to the president and you needed open-heart surgery, you could have it done at Bethesda for free." There's more. Someone who has received care at the naval hospital explains that once you arrive, "You are then met by an escort from the Executive Health Office, who takes you from specialist to specialist, with no waiting in lines anywhere.
"They just bring you in as soon as you arrive, and you generally see the chief of the department for whatever specialty you need if he's available." Obama spokesman Reid Cherlin responded: "The president has repeatedly said that he'd like every American to have access to the same high-quality care that's available to him, his family and his staff."
But it's unlikely that "government health care" will mean for the rest of us what it does for people like Rahm Emanuel, David Axelrod and Robert Gibbs, along with members of the president's Cabinet. Even further down the White House chain, perks are pretty sweet.
White House staffers don't have to step outside their office building or pay a red cent. People on Capitol Hill aren't struggling either.
Members of Congress and their aides have access to the Office of the Attending Physician in the US Capitol, which, according to its Web site, provides "acute/urgent care for all that work on or visit Capitol Hill," including "emergency evaluation for injuries and serious illnesses," "free flu vaccinations," "the administration of allergy shots [patients provide their own serum]," "physician referrals," "travel advice and screenings," "occupational exams and certifications," and "beyond."