Christmas was hard on Rep. Mike Coffman's battle-tested body. Not only did the Colorado congressman break his ankle, he also briefly found his foot in his mouth.
Coffman, a former Marine who keeps buff at age 54, was jogging on the golf course bordering his home in Aurora, Colo., when he stumbled on a rock or some other obstruction hidden in the snow. He fell, cracking his ankle.
The congressman and his wife went to an urgent care clinic in a strip mall, where he paid $30 for a temporary cast and a prescription, and later he went to the famed Steadman Hawkins Clinic in Vail, where he paid $350 for an expert opinion, he told The Denver Post
"I successfully tested our health care system," he said, with a laugh. "It works,"' he told the Post. Of course
the health care system worked for him, many Coloradans undoubtedly thought when they read the item in Saturday's Post. Coffman, a Republican member of Congress who voted against the health care reform bill in the House last year, is covered by the Cadillac of American health-care plans, the Federal Employees Health Benefits Plan.
That's why his X-ray, temporary cast and prescription cost him only $30.
But if he didn't have insurance -- like some 45 million Americans --- the tab most likely would be closer to $375 ($150 for the visit, $150 for the splint, and $75 for the X-ray, according to prices quoted at a popular downtown Denver urgent-care clinic).
Coffman, a 1991 Gulf War veteran, can thank taxpayers for picking up the majority of his broken-ankle bill. According to The Los Angeles Times, some 8.5 million federal workers, including members of Congress, have about 10 different plans to choose from under FEHFP. "The plan most favored by federal workers is Blue Cross Blue Shield, which covers a family for about $1,030 a month. Taxpayers kick in $700, and employees pay the rest. Seeing a doctor costs $20. Generic prescriptions cost $10. Immunizations are free. There is no coverage limit."
Coffman's health coverage also includes, according to the L.A. Times: Special treatment at Bethesda Naval Medical Center and Walter Reed Army Medical Center; for an extra $300 (House) or $600 (Senate) per month, access to a Capitol Hill team of doctors, nurses and other medical personnel; and coverage regardless of a preexisting condition.
But yes, I hear what you're saying: Coffman only makes $174K a year. Hard to keep your feet in a good pair of Nikes on that ridiculous sum, let alone fix broken bones. Not.
At Coffman's office Monday, the communications director said his boss's statement -- "I successfully tested our health care system; It works" -- was missing some context. "I don' t think [the context] conveys that he said this somewhat in jest," said Nat Sillin. "It was not a serious statement. "
The story was clearly meant to be a "light reader on a holiday," Sillin said, and the the Post's headline indeed suggests that is so: "Coffman's ankle mishap puts party at standstill. Christmas break means no dancing for the lawmaker." Coffman, former Colorado state treasurer and lawmaker, hosts a New Year's Eve party for fellow Republicans each year. This year, his ankle kept him off the parquet, he told the Post. "I usually do a Russian dance, kicking my legs in the air," he said.
When Coffman told the newspaper his broken-ankle experience proved to him the health system "works," Coffman was referring to the impressive work he saw at the urgent care clinic in the strip mall -- not America's health care system in general, said Sillin. "The congressman thinks [urgent care facilities] may be a bright spot in health care reform."
Lest anyone be confused, Coffman repeatedly has said he thinks America's health care system is broken and "definitely is in need of fixing," said Sillin. "He unquestionably is in favor of health care reform -- he just doesn't support the legislation that's currently moving though [Congress]. "
On Dec. 22, before the Senate vote on health care reform, Coffman released a statement, which said in part: "I call on our Senators to do the right thing -- reject this bill and reject the backroom political deals that have paved the way for its passage. . . . Not only is this Senate bill going to create massive new mandates, raise taxes, cause people to lose their current insurance, and cut care for seniors, but now thanks to Harry Reid's last minute deals Colorado taxpayers will be paying for the $300 million 'Louisiana Purchase,' the $100 million Nebraska 'Cornhusker Kickback,' Vermont's $600 million Medicaid bonus and a slew of sweetheart deals for other states."
Now, the record has been set straight. Here's hoping Rep. Coffman's ankle has been, too.