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Never Mind

The WasteWatcher

Yesterday, I blogged about a story in the newspaper Politico that said members of Congress were looking for ways to exempt themselves and their staff from Obamacare.  Today The Hill, another popular newspaper in Washington, D.C., reports:

Democratic leaders said Thursday they’re not seeking an exemption from a central requirement of ObamaCare — that members of Congress and their staff purchase healthcare coverage through insurance exchanges. Republicans spent the day hammering Democrats for allegedly seeking to carve themselves out of a requirement in the healthcare law. But Democratic leaders said they have not sought an exemption — and would not support one if it were proposed. “Nobody is exempting anybody from anything,” one Democratic aide said.

Based on the Politico story, it is clear discussions are going on within the congressional leadership on how to implement Obamacare for their staff and members of Congress.  They are confused about how to go about it and worried about the effects the law will have on their staff.  Right now, Congress and their staff get their health insurance via the Federal Employees Health Benefit Plan (FEHBP) in which taxpayers subsidize approximately 75 percent of the cost of the premium.  But under Obamacare, members of Congress and office staff must get their healthcare coverage through the new insurance exchanges.  Major questions that need to be answered include when a congressional employee would be eligible for a subsidy to purchase their health insurance and in what exchange they would participate. Welcome to our world Congress! According to Obamacare, a person or family can receive financial assistance if their income is up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL.)  Right now, 400 percent of the FPL is $45,960 for one person or $94,200 for a family of four.  (The Kaiser Family Foundation provides a  summary of the legislation, which can be found here and Families USA provides a convenient FPL chart that can be found here.The Hill points out that, “staffers whose total household income is less than about $45,000 per year by themselves — or $94,000 for a family of four — would be eligible for subsidies to help pay for their policies, just like anyone else who uses the exchanges...Staffers and members with higher incomes would have to foot the entire bill for their coverage.” There’s the rub.  Some people who work on Capitol Hill are going to pay much more than they do now for their health insurance. And there will be inequities among congressional staff too.  As I mentioned in yesterday’s blog, congressional committee staff are exempted from Obamacare and will continue to get their health insurance through the FEHBP, which is a pretty good healthcare plan.  The Hill reported on comments regarding these differences from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA.):

Pelosi noted that some congressional staff, such as aides who work for a committee instead of an individual lawmaker, wouldn’t be covered by the healthcare reform law’s requirement to use the exchanges. Congress should level the playing field by moving all staffers and members into the exchanges, she said.  “The bill has been written, it’s a question of interpretation, and we want everybody to be treated the same,” she said at a news conference Thursday.

Reminds me of the infamous comment Ms. Pelosi made back in 2010 about the legislation.  She said, “we have to pass the health care bill so that you can find out what is in it.”  I bet a lot of members of Congress and staff now wish they had read the bill and knew what was in it before they passed it. (Note to Senator Grassley, now is a good time to bring up your amendment again that would require congressional committee staff, the President and Vice President and other members in the Executive Branch to get their health insurance through Obamacare.]

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