This article first appeared at McAlvany Intelligence Adviser:
During the arm-twisting, the backroom deals, and the promises made (that were later broken) in order to force Congress to pass the hated Obamacare act that is now revealing itself in all its splendor, one little piece of legislation was inserted that is now coming back to bite the same people who voted for it. It’s called the Grassley amendment. It’s based on the concept that Congress ought to enjoy the same benefits of laws that they pass on the citizens. Here’s the language:
The only health plans that the Federal Government may make available to Members of Congress and congressional staff with respect to their service as a Member of Congress or congressional staff shall be health plans that are — (I) created under this Act (or an amendment made by this Act); or (II) offered through an Exchange established under this Act (or an amendment made by this Act).
At present, Congressional representatives, aides, and staffers have about 75% of their health insurance premiums paid under the generous (taxpayer-funded) Federal Employee Health Benefits Program. On January 1st, however, that ends (thanks to Grassley’s amendment), and they will then have to fend for themselves by joining health exchanges and start paying for their health insurance the hard way, just like the rest of us.
But this is outrageous! They’re special people, and some are threatening to quit unless something is done. Rep. Thomas Cole (R-Okla.) said: “A lot of the staff stays on largely because of the benefit levels and particularly if you’ve got people with families and it [the generous health insurance premium subsidy] is extraordinarily important to them. It’s just not right.” Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas) added: “It’s going to hinder our ability with the retention of members, it’s going to hinder our ability for members to take care of their families.” Rep. John Larson, another Republican from Texas, exclaimed: “This is simply not fair to these employees. They are federal employees!”
Not only are some staffers threatening to quit to go into the private sector, others are threatening to retire before the end of the year so that they can take their present health plan (and subsidy) with them.
So the fix is coming. One (unnamed) Congressional aide said that the leadership (read: Boehner and Reid) “has assured members that fixing this issue is a top priority. This issue must be fixed by administrative action…” Indeed, one (also unnamed) source told Avik Roy, a Forbes journalist, that Boehner and Reid are working together to fix this injustice: “Everyone has to hold hands on this and jump, or nothing is going to get done.”
While I have many friends who work for Congress, and I wish them well, it is absolutely a good thing that members and staffers are enrolled on the exchange. It is vital for these individuals to experience, first-hand, how Obamacare’s costly mandates and regulations will drive up the price of health insurance. Staffers will, in particular, be affected by Obamacare’s “community rating” provision, which jacks up the cost of insurance for young people. (Most Hill staffers are in their twenties and early thirties.)
It’s critical that those who design our laws get to experience them for themselves.
The “fix” is expected to be announced by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) in a couple of months, which will allow, through “administrative action,” the federal government to continue to subsidize staffers’ health insurance premiums and keep them happy. After all, they are special and must not be allowed to be treated as normal, regular, common, ordinary, everyday, taxpaying citizens.