Members of Congress and their aides will be forced to pay up to $11,000 more a year to buy health insurance on the Obamacare exchanges once the state exchanges become implemented in less than nine weeks.
Obamacare, as it is written, does not give the federal government a way of subsidizing the insurance plans of federal workers in Congress like it currently does. Republicans wanted legislators and their aides to play by the same rules as their constituents, so the GOP inserted a provision requiring congressional workers to purchase insurance from the exchanges.
According to the New York Times, since staffers will have to pay an additional $5,000 a year and families may have to pay up to $11,000 more a year, the Obama administration–and leadership on both sides of the aisle–have struggled to find creative solutions and interpretations to get around the law.
In addition, as the Times notes, “the White House and Congress are highly sensitive to any suggestion that lawmakers or their aides are getting special treatment under the health law,” especially after the Obama administration delayed the employer mandate provision for a year.
Many staffers are threatening to leave Congress and go into the private sector if government does not subsidize their insurance plans.
David M. Ermer, “a lawyer who has represented insurers in the federal employee program for 30 years,” said one way staffers could be reimbursed if is they pay for their health insurance now and then get reimbursed by the government after a “a law to appropriate money for that” is passed later. In the meantime, he does not see anything in the law that allows the federal government to reimburse staffers.
The Times noted, though, that “aides who work for Congressional committees and in leadership offices, like those of the speaker of the House and the majority and minority leaders of the two chambers, are apparently exempt — though neither Congress nor the administration has said for sure.”