Members of Congress and their aides will essentially be exempt from Obamacare, as the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) will issue a ruling that says the federal government can subsidize the health insurance premiums of members of Congress and their aides even though the law does not say so.
According to Politico, OPM was “under heavy pressure from Capitol Hill” to issue the ruling giving lawmakers and staffers special treatment because Washington feared a so-called “brain drain,” as staffers unable to afford the healthcare plans available on the government exchanges threatened to go into the private sector.
President Barack Obama hinted to outlets like Politico and the New York Times that he was seeking creative solutions to get around the law for legislators and their aides.
As the Times noted, the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) “does not clearly authorize the government to pay premiums for federal employees who obtain insurance through the exchanges. Nor does it authorize the government to reimburse federal employees who buy health insurance on their own.”
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) put the provision into the bill that required lawmakers and their aides to play by the same rules as their constituents and purchase their health care from the exchanges.
The federal government subsidized nearly 75% of these insurance premium payments before Obamacare. But under the new law, lawmakers and staffers would have had to pay an additional $5,000 for individual plans and around $11,000 more for family plans on the exchanges that are set to start on Oct. 1.
Lawmakers, as some experts claimed, could have passed a legislative “fix” that would have explicitly authorized the federal government to subsidize the insurance premiums, but they feared a backlash from constituents at a time when Congress is almost universally reviled. A recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll found that nearly 60% of Americans would vote to replace every member of Congress if given the opportunity to do so.
Sen. Minority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX) tweeted on Thursday that OPM’s ruling was an “outrageous exemption for Congress.”