Washington has been abuzz for months over the fear and loathing that Congressional staffers have for Obamacare. Many staffers and employees on Capitol Hill have been saying they’ll have to quit Washington if they are forced into Obamacare. Now the President is promising to fix it all for them.
At the very beginning of his closed-door meeting with Senate Democrats, the President addressed staffers’ worries that Obamacare will force them to quit working in Washington, promising “I’m on it.”
Currently congressional staffers have 75 percent of their healthcare insurance paid by taxpayers, but if their Cadillac Congressional healthcare plan is ended and staffers are pushed into Obamacare, many Congressional employees fear that their insurance costs will increase by thousands of dollars a year. This cost, many say, will force them to quit working in Washington.
The Republican-sponsored amendment to Obamacare introduced by Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) would require that lawmakers and their staffers must be covered by the same insurance exchanges that the rest of America will be forced into as mandated by Obama’s healthcare law. It is this amendment that staffers are protesting.
The Office of Personnel Management has not announced its decision on whether or not it will discontinue the comprehensive Congressional healthcare plan and this uncertainty is driving staffers’ fears.
Some lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have been threatening to push through a legislative “fix” to the problem thereby exempting Congress and its employees from Obama’s healthcare law. But such a fix could be characterized as a certain measure of hypocrisy as Congress exempts itself from the healthcare law it forced on the rest of us.
It is an axiom among many in Congress that if staffers are forced into Obamacare, a “brain drain” will result as key staffers with years of experience will quit and go home to find other work.
Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) is one who fears such a loss of staffers.
“Both sides of the aisle, both sides of the dome, we’re facing a significant brain drain of people who work with us both here in Washington and state staffs,” Mikulski said. “Some of us have caseworkers that have been with us 18, 20 years. Our links to veterans’ communities and the elderly. My casework staff is a crack staff; it’s one of the ways we’re able to help our constituents. We could face a real brain drain.”
Some Republicans have joined Democrats in efforts to exempt staffers from Obamacare, but not all. Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina recently said that Congress should have to live with the same law that everyone else does.
“I have no problems with Congress being under the same guidelines,” Burr said. “I think if this is going to be a disaster–which I think it’s going to be–we ought to enjoy it together with our constituents.”
A spokesperson for the House Ways and Means Committee chaired by Republican Dave Camp of Michigan echoed Sen. Burr’s sentiment.
“If the ObamaCare exchanges are good enough for the hardworking Americans and small businesses the law claims to help,” the spokesperson said, “then they should be good enough for the president, vice president, Congress and federal employees.”