GOP Rep. Didn’t Take Federal Health Insurance — He Already Had Better State Benefits

Rep. Leonard Lance (R-NJ) was recently able to get an ad from a liberal group, attacking him on his vote to repeal health care reform, taken off the air on the factual ground that he has not accepted federal health care benefits as the ad stated. However, it turns out that he gets even better government-provided health benefits — from the state government in New Jersey.

Blue America PAC aired a series of ads against four selected House Republicans, including Lance, with the line: “But don’t worry, Congressman ______ is all set — since his vote didn’t apply to the health plan he gets as a member of Congress.”

Lance’s chief of staff then contacted a local radio station, and had the ad pulled on the grounds that he is not enrolled in the health plans available to members of Congress.

Now here’s where it gets funny.As the Camden Courier-Post reports:

Lance opposes the health care reform package on cost concerns — he’s a deficit hawk — and on small-government principles. But it turns out he receives medical care for practically nothing, thanks to the taxpayers of New Jersey.

Lance receives family health coverage that is free except for co-pays, the state Department of Treasury confirmed Friday. The former state senator, assemblyman and Kean administration official qualified for retirement in 2006, his 25th year of service. He retired in January 2009, when he moved on to Washington, and enrolled in the state’s free health plan for retirees.

Just to be clear, when the paper says that Lance “retired” from New Jersey state government in January 2009, this is a reference to the fact that then-state Senator Lance was elected to Congress in 2008. It would make sense that he didn’t apply for federal benefits — long before this became a cause among Tea Party freshmen — since he already had insurance through a state that is known for providing particularly generous benefits to state employees.

Of course, those same generous benefits have also come under attack from Gov. Chris Christie, whose jousts with the public employee unions have made him a conservative celebrity.

As the paper also notes: “New Jersey’s health insurance coverage for public employees is significantly more generous than plans available to federal workers. Gov. Chris Christie is pushing for reforms to bring the state’s pensions and benefits structure more in line with that offered to him when he was a U.S. attorney.”

(Via Greg Sargent)