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U.S. Lawmakers Aim to Keep Cushy Health Care Benefits by Bolting D.C. Before Obamacare Hits

U.S. Lawmakers Aim to Keep Cushy Health Care Benefits by Bolting D.C. Before Obamacare Hits

"Not fair."

The threat of complying with the Affordable Care Act is apparently so unpleasant for a few U.S. lawmakers and their aides, that some are considering avoiding it entirely by retiring early.

But first, they need more information on the law they wrote.


The fear: Government-subsidized premiums will disappear at the end of the year under a provision in the health care law that nudges aides and lawmakers onto the government health care exchanges, which could make their benefits exorbitantly expensive.

Democratic and Republican leaders are taking the issue seriously, but first they need more specifics from the Office of Personnel Management on how the new rule should take effect — a decision that Capitol Hill sources expect by fall, at the latest. The administration has clammed up in advance of a ruling, sources on both sides of the aisle said.

If the issue isn’t resolved, the report claims, several members of Congress and their aides are seriously considering leaving the capitol with their current government-subsidized health premiums intact.

Getty Images.

According to sources, several House aides have already notified members of Congress that Obamacare may force them to leave. Meanwhile, Democrat and Republican lawmakers say the retirement chatter is “constant.”

“It’s a reality,” said Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas). “This is the law. … It’s going to hinder our ability with retention of members, it’s going to hinder our ability for members to take care of their families.”

“If not, I think we should begin an immediate amicus brief to say, ‘Listen this is simply not fair to these employees,’” Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.) told POLITICO. “They are federal employees.”

Not fair.

Rep. Jo Bonner (R-Ala.) said the chatter about lawmakers and their aides leaving over Obamacare is real.

“I’ve lost one staffer who told me in confidence that he had been here for a number of years and the thought of losing the opportunity to keep his health insurance on Dec. 31 [forced him to leave]. He could keep what he had and on Jan. 1 he would go into that big black hole,” said Rep. Bonner.

“And then I’ve got another staff member that I think it will be a factor as she’s contemplating her future,” he added.

The issue stems from an Obamacare amendment crafted by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) that states the government can only extend to lawmakers and their aides plans that are “created” in the bill or “offered through an exchange” (unless the law is amended). The idea at the time was that Sen. Grassley was forcing members of Congress to accept the same health care plan they were hoisting on the American people.

So, right now, lawmakers are trying to think of a way to amend the law, according to POLITICO.

“Currently, aides and lawmakers receive their health care under the generous Federal Employee Health Benefits Program. The government subsidizes upward of 75 percent of the premiums for the health insurance plans,” the report claims.

“In 2014, most Capitol Hill aides and lawmakers are expected to be put onto the exchanges, and there has been no guidance whether the government will subsidize those premiums. This is expected to cause a steep spike in health insurance costs,” it adds.

But here's the best part of the report:

The uncertainty has created a growing furor on Capitol Hill with aides young and old worried about skyrocketing health care premiums cutting deeply into their already small paychecks. Some longtime aides and members of Congress, who previously had government subsidized health care for life, are concerned that their premiums will now come out of their pension.

If their fears are borne out, the results could be twofold. Some junior staff will head for the private sector early while more seasoned aides and lawmakers could leave before the end of the year so they can continue under the old plan.

Truly sad stuff. Really.

Click here to read the full POLITICO report.


Follow Becket Adams (@BecketAdams) on Twitter

Featured image Getty Images.

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