Congress Looks for a Way to Exempt Itself From Obamacare Exchange Requirement



And lo was Obamacare passed, and lo did members of Congress and their staffs find out what was in it: a provision requiring legislators under 65 and their personal staffers to get their insurance through the law's health exchanges. And it appears as if many legislators—including some Democrats—are dismayed by the requirement.

"Secret talks" are underway between both parties in Congress to do away with this requirement, according to Politico. Proposals have been submitted to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), which manages congressional staffer benefit options. According to Politico's story, "One proposal exempts lawmakers and aides; the other exempts aides alone."

The fear amongst Hill offices is that the requirement will mean that congressional staffers have to purchase insurance from the exchanges using after tax dollars, without the subsidy that they now receive for insurance acquired through the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program (FEHBP). "If they lose that subsidy," Politico reported in March, "it's like getting a pay cut of several thousand dollars." OPM has yet to rule on whether that subsidy will still be available once staffers have to go through the exchanges. But the worry on the Hill is that the compensation cut and the requirement to get insurance through the exchanges could lead to a "brain drain," in which talented staffers or potential staffers avoid working in congressional offices.

So here's what's not happening: Congress is not attempting to exempt itself from Obamacare entirely.

But here's what is happening: Members of Congress are looking for a way to get out of the part of the law that affects them most—and avoid the health insurance exchanges that are intended to serve as the primary vehicle for the law's health insurance expansion.

This is not simply a minor technical issue, nor just a little glitch (although ObamaCare does seem to be rather full of glitches). Instead, it's a telling illustration of one of the largest problems with the law, which is that at the micro level, it's extremely poorly conceived—confusing, irritating, and difficult to implement or plan for as written and passed. Even, it seems, for those who voted to pass it.

And, of course, also for the Republican legislators and staffers who didn't vote for it. Obamacare critics are already warning GOP House Speaker John Boehner that they will react angrily if his office, which is apparently participating in the bipartisan talks, is complicit in allowing Democrats to avoid consequences of their own law.

But I'm a little tempted to argue the reverse: Boehner could join hands with Democrats to pass a fix that lets members of Congress and their staffers out of the exchange requirement. He could say that Republicans remain opposed to forcing ObamaCare's bureaucratic burdens on any American. In other words, let congressional Democrats go on record as voting to exempt themselves from complying with every feature of their own law—and then remind them of that as often as possible.

Tempting as that is, however, I like the suggestion offered by Avik Roy of the Manhattan Institute even better: Push to expand the exchange requirement to more members of the federal government, starting with the administration. "It is vital," he writes, "for these individuals to experience, first-hand, how Obamacare's costly mandates and regulations will drive up the cost of health insurance." They passed it. They're finding out what's in it. And now, like the rest of us, they ought to have to live with it.

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  1. Hoisted by their own petard.

    I want to hear Pelosi and Reid explain why they don’t have to participate in the Exchanges.

    It will amuse me.

  2. Hell, just ask the King for a special exemption.

  3. Of course they are going to exempt themselves from what they make the peasants endure. Of course. This is a guarantee, a total lock. I’d bet one million dollars that they do so. This is all so predictable it’s like watching Murder, She Wrote.

    1. Speaking of Murder She Wrote, has anyone every tallied the number of nephew’s or nieces Jessica Fletcher had? I figure it’s a huge number!

      1. You’re an idiot. The real point is that Angela Lansbury was a real cutie back in the day. There’s a reason she was the princess in The Court Jester.

        1. Damn! Who knew?

          1. Dang, she was hot. That’s impressive.

              1. She still has that look though. That “let them eat cake” look.

              2. Creepy. She looks like my mother at that age.

                1. my mother did


                2. Your mother was a babe nerfherder. All your little friends were probably home jerking off to thoughts of your mom.

                  1. Who knows, maybe they still are.

        2. Angela was a cutie, right up until she played the incestuous mother from hell in the Manchurian Candidate.

          1. She was actually only 2 or 3 years older than the guy who played her son in that. Angela Lansbury is “timeless”

            1. I didn’t realize that. She is a hell of an actor. Hard to imagine anyone playing a more dislikable part any better.

              1. Yeah, I was really impressed when I found that out after having seen the movie.

        3. wowsa. Tuff to believe

      2. I was more concerned that they kept letting an obvious mass murderer walk free at the end of every episode.

        1. I think it was a cabal, they’d alternate who actually did the crime, she’d concoct a frame-job and the others would back her up.

    2. The truly appalling aspect of this story is that they weren’t exempted from the start.

  4. I’m only surprised that there wasn’t an exemption written in from the start.

    1. They had to pass it to find that out.

  5. Wait, wait, wait . . . wait – what happened to “if you like your current plan you’ll be able to keep it”?

    1. That’s only until they can create a federal monopoly to sink all other options and become our only choice.

  6. “If they lose that subsidy,” Politico reported in March, “it’s like getting a pay cut of several thousand dollars.”

    Who could possibly have seen this coming?

    1. It’s fucking hilarious – these “talented staffers” are the fucks who wrote the bill.

  7. How the fuck did they let that slip by them? That sort of provision has squashed far more obscure legislation than Obamacare. Did anybody read it? Do you think we pay for your staffs to wash your dicks for you, congresscritters?

    1. Did anybody read it?

      Um, they had to pass it to see what was in it.

  8. This needs to be shouted from the rooftops from now until the entire mess is repealed. Utter hypocritical scumbags. How can even their supporters accept this garbage? Why isn’t it good enough for them, if it’s good enough for everyone else?

    1. See public education system….

  9. Suderman’s other half also has a good post on exactly this.

    The second point I’d make is that there seems to be a growing consensus among Obamacare’s supporters that all problems with the law are due to either Republican opposition, or “drafting errors”. No tax subsidies in the bill for federal exchanges? Drafting error. Implementation running behind? Don’t blame HHS, blame Republicans. You would think that the PPACA had delegated responsibility for implementation to the Republican National Committee, rather than the Department of Health and Human Services.

    Opponents have long been saying that the bill was basically one long drafting error, and now its supporters seem to be suggesting that they’re right. Have we now arrived at a point where the optimistic case for the bill that was an incredibly sloppy first draft that obviously required the active cooperation of the opposition to make it work? And if so, has this made anyone question the wisdom of passing it in the first place? If you want to get to the other side of a deep ravine, and the only way to do so is to ride a unicycle across a tightrope while juggling burning torches, maybe it’s time to rethink your goal. And if you decide to go ahead, you probably shouldn’t blame anyone else if you go down in flames.

    Yummy, yummy tears…

    1. I love it.

    2. Opposition may be a majority of Americans now but that is only temporary. Once we get it through, the American people will understand how it improves their lives, and it will grow wildly popular. At that point, the Rethuglicans will have to along, or else risk being destroyed at the polls.

      1. That, by the way, is verbatum what they actually believed.

    3. I like the Left’s logic. If Republicans voted against a terrible bill – then it’s there fault it sucks as a law. They should have written a better bill to do the same thing.

      1. I know tons of liberal friends who were making basically this argument the day after it passed.

        Their first reaction was cheering and gloating.
        The second was hemming and hawing- “If only the republicans had partnered with us, this would be even better”.

        Even at that time, they were laying the groundwork to blame every stumble on Opponents.

    4. She links the neighborhood window licker Ezra Klein. He’s saying, they aren’t trying to get out from under Obamacare, but just making sure they get those sweet subsidies for their insurance.
      — also it’s the Republicans fault
      —- look squirrel!

  10. could lead to a “brain drain,” in which talented staffers or potential staffers avoid working in congressional offices.

    Endeavor to persevere, America.

    1. The last thing we need is Congressional staffers turned lose on America. Trust me Brooks, as bad as things are, until it is legal to shoot them, Congressional Staffers need to be confined to the Capitol.

    2. It’s evident that the best and most competent are not drawn to government so what’s all this about a brain drain?

      1. No shit. The staffers are a lower form of life than the bureaucracy.

        1. Not all. But if you’re still a staffer at 35, yes.

    3. I reckon so.

  11. “could lead to a “brain drain,” in which talented staffers or potential staffers avoid working in congressional offices.

    And of course, in the private sector, the same law won’t impact hiring and worker’s employment choices. I read it on the internet.

    TOP MEN!

    1. I was unaware there was such a plethora of intelligence working in government.

      1. It ain’t easy being a gofer.

    2. And since when is there such a thing as a “talented staffer”. Is stealing and totally fucking up anything you touch now considered a talent?

      1. If so, I have family members who I have been undervaluing for years.

        1. They just missed their calling working in Congress.

      2. For politicians it’s the only talent.

      3. A talented staffer is one with just the right air of competence no matter if basic math alludes them like it does Ezra Klein, just the right little arrogant frown, and someone who can fire off all the right talking points without needing a retake.

        1. That is a good description. Whenever I deal with them, they always seem to know just enough to be dangerous but just know they are total experts on every subject.

        2. A talented staffer can keep his or her idiot Rep or Senator from being filmed soliciting a prostitute – while attending Georgetown Law at night on the taxpayers’ dime.

        3. eludes. Alluding is refering to. Eluding is escaping. joe’z law strikes again.

  12. Because he’s not here…


  13. this really is sickening. Yet another flush of the toilet bowl.

  14. I posted a link to the politco story on FB with the caption “You don’t opt out of a good deal”. We’ll see what the true believers have to say. Meanwhile the true Beliebers are crying about the drugs found on the Beeb’s tour bus.

  15. “it’s like getting a pay cut of several thousand dollars.”

    Like? No is is getting a pay cut and that is what every American is going to go through because of this abomination of a law.

    1. But they aren’t regular people and should not suffer the consequences of their actions.

    2. But we’re not just getting a pay cut, we’re also getting substantially worse health care for more money. Everyone wins!

  16. Worst. Law. Ever!

  17. “If they lose that subsidy,” Politico reported in March, “it’s like getting a pay cut of several thousand dollars.”

    Welcome to the real world motherfuckers…that place where actions have consequences.

  18. Sometimes man you jsut gotta smack dat behind dude.


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