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Is Congress Trying to Sneak Out of Obamacare? Don't Bet on It
By Tamara Lytle, April 29, 2013 01:08 PM
Few things rile some people as much as the new health care law and the benefits that Capitol Hill lawmakers give themselves. So it's not at all surprising that the idea of Congress exempting itself from Obamacare would make political commentators' tongues wag and an angry public Tweet like mad-real mad.
But is it much ado about nothing?
John Breshnahan and Jake Sherman of Politico touched off the venting with their report that lawmakers are worried that Obamacare could raise their out-of-pocket health insurance costs so much and that it would drive good people away from jobs on Capitol Hill.
They wrote: "House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) is worried about the provision. The No. 2 House Democrat has personally raised the issue with [House Speaker John] Boehner and other party leaders, sources said."
Hoyer's communications director, Katie Grant, responded: "Mr. Hoyer is looking at this policy, like all other policies in the Affordable Care Act, to ensure they're being implemented in a way that's workable for everyone, including members and staff."
Not surprisingly, Boehner didn't offer Democrats any cover.
"The Speaker would like to see resolution of this problem, along with the other nightmares created by Washington Democrats' health law, which is why he supports full repeal," Boehner spokesman Michael Steel told the Weekly Standard. "In the meantime, it is Democrats' problem to solve. He will not sneak any language into bills to solve it for them - and the Democratic leadership knows that."
Calm down everyone, writes the Washington Post's Ezra Klein. The politicians aren't trying to exempt themselves from the health care law; they're simply trying to make it jibe with the peculiarities of federal employment.
It seems that a sloppy last-minute amendment to the 2010 law compels Congress to participate in the insurance exchanges that were set up for small businesses and uninsured individuals.
The problem is, those exchanges aren't set up for employers to contribute toward the costs of their workers' premiums. So, because of the sloppy legislative draftsmanship, members of Congress and their employees - who are accustomed to the federal government subsidizing their premiums - are staring at the prospect of suddenly having to pay full freight themselves.
As Klein says:"This isn't, in other words, an effort to flee Obamacare. It's an effort to fix a drafting error that prevents the federal government from paying into insurance exchanges on behalf of congressional staffers who got caught up in a political controversy."
But with congressional approval ratings lower than head lice and cockroaches, it didn't take much for the public to break out the outrage.
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