Comment by Jim Campbell
If this was such a great deal for members of Congress and their families, why did they exempt themselves until 2014?
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it, I’m J.C. and I approve this message.
Of all the many gripes and complaints directed my way when it comes to the Affordable Care Act, the one that appears to tick people off the most is a widespread belief that Congress has carved out some exemptions for themselves that provide our elected representatives with cushy health insurance benefits while the rest of us are left to experience diminishing coverage from employers or, come 2014, enter the unknown world of state run health insurance exchanges.
It’s a great story – but it certainly is not the true story.
Indeed, you may be surprised to learn that once the lion’s share of the ACA kicks in on January 1, 2014, not only are Members of Congress and their staff obligated to play by the same rules as the rest of us, they will actually be required to follow a more restrictive path to their health insurance than you and I.
The false narrative suggesting that Congress gave themselves a special deal appears to have begun with John Fund of the Wall Street Journal who wrote,
As the U.S. Office of Personnel Management notes, Members of Congress “enjoy the widest selection of health plans in the country.” According to page 114 of the Kennedy bill, a similar array of choices would not be available to other Americans in the future. Instead, they would be shunted into health insurance plans under the straightjacket of whatever the government decides is a “basic” plan.
The goal would be to restrict care for the general public in order to control costs, while making sure Congress gets the gold-plated attention it’s accustomed to. Ultimately, the rest of us would be asked to trade a private insurance company as gatekeeper for a government gatekeeper. The difference, of course, is that most of us can fire our insurance gatekeeper. Just try to do that once the government fills that role.
This line of bull was peddled to an even larger audience by Sean Hannity, a man who never met a fact that he wasn’t willing to ignore while making up a new one to better suit his purpose. During Hannity’s Fox News program of March 24, 2010, Hannity stated, without reservation, that that Members of Congress and their staff were exempt from the requirements of the Affordable Care Act.
So, here’s the real deal –As things currently stand, Members of Congress and their staff, until 2014, will continue to participate in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP). This program, considered among the best in the nation, allows federal employees- including Members of Congress and their staff- to choose from a wide range of health plans and select the one that best suits their needs. Note that the current plan is neither ‘government’ insurance, ‘free’ insurance nor any other sort of sweet deal that the public has been led to believe is the case. The federal employee’s program involves private insurance policies with premiums, deductibles, co-pays, etc.
Here’s the surprise – come 2014, when the lion’s share of the ACA provisions come on line, Members of Congress and their staff will be required to buy their health insurance on an exchange. In fact, their choices will be even more limited than our own. While it is expected that some 24 million people will elect to purchase their health care policy on a state run exchange, we are not required by law to do so. Members of Congress and their staff, however, must buy their insurance in this way.
Section 1312 of the Affordable Care Act reads as follows:
(D) MEMBERS OF CONGRESS IN THE EXCHANGE.-
(i) REQUIREMENT.-Notwithstanding any other provision of law, after the effective date of this subtitle, 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-