A Cure for the Sickness

President Trump tweeted this yesterday:

It’s what many of us have been asking for. Let the ruling class have a taste of their own medicine. That could heal the problem of Obamacare rather quickly. Let them try to find insurance companies who will accept Obamacare and see how high the cost is.

It’s not only the politicians who will feel the pain, but it’s also their staffers. They will likely complain enough to get the attention of those bloated legislators feeding at the public trough. Take it away and they will not be happy.

Trump’s tweet also calls to the attention of the American people the fact that these bureaucrats get these subsidies. Many Americans are unaware that about 75% of it we pay for.

A blog called healthaffairs.org in August 2013 explained how they worked the system:

The requirement that members of Congress purchase coverage through the exchange was included in the law because of a political gambit offered by an opponent of the law, Charles Grassley. Reportedly, Senator Grassley, intending to embarrass Democratic supporters of the law, offered an amendment requiring members of Congress to purchase coverage through the exchanges through which many of their constituents would be purchasing coverage. Democrats, however, embraced the idea and added it to the ACA. Far from exempting Congress from ACA requirements, as some have reported, the amendment subjects members to a legal requirement that will apply to no other Americans.

The requirement, however, created a problem. The exchanges are only open to individuals and small employers. No large employers participate in the exchange, at least not yet. There is no provision, therefore for large employers, including the largest — the United States government — to pay for exchange coverage. Members of Congress and their staff will generally not be qualified for premium tax credits because they will have income above 400 percent of poverty. Requiring them to pay for coverage out of pocket in after-tax dollars would be unfair and would also make these jobs very unattractive. So how will their insurance be paid for?

The intent of Congress as to how coverage would be paid for was clear all along, as demonstrated by a 2010 Congressional Research Service report. Congressional coverage would be paid for in the same way coverage for other federal employees is funded — through the federal Office of Personnel Management. The ACA requires the federal government to “make available” exchange coverage to Congress, and Senator Grassley stated at the time he offered his amendment that its intent was “to require that Members of Congress and congressional staff get their employer-based health insurance through the same exchanges as … constituents.” It was only a matter of time until OPM clarified this.

What’s in the rule? The proposed rule provides, as expected, that the federal government will pay a share of exchange premiums, 72 percent of the cost of the weighted average of Federal Employee Health Benefit Program (FEHBP) plans or 75 percent of the premium of the chosen plan, whichever is less. It clarifies a number of other issues as well. First, it clarifies that coverage through the exchanges for members of Congress and their personal staff will begin on January 1, 2014. Regular FEHBP coverage will terminate on December 31, 2013.

A second issue is who is covered by the provision. It clearly applies to members of Congress, although the question of how it applies to delegates from the territories is left open for comment, since the territories will not necessarily have exchanges. The requirement also applies to “employees employed by the official office” of a member of Congress, which is interpreted as meaning personal congressional staff as opposed to committee or leadership committee staff, or other employees of Congress. But congressional staff are, apparently, not always clearly assigned to one category or another.

The proposed rule would allow the employing office of each member absolute discretion to decide whether a particular staff member is designated as personal staff subject to the exchange purchase requirement, but once a designation is made it must be made for the entire year. It also must be made prior to October 1 for any given year so that staff members will be able to choose a plan during the annual open enrollment period (although there will be a 30-day grace period for the 2014 coverage year). There may be some room for manipulation in allowing members of Congress to designate which of their staff are subject to the rule, but presumably members will have ample incentives for designating staff as personal staff that will outweigh their desire to keep their staff out of the exchange.

Third, the rule clarifies that plans that are certified as qualified health plans by an exchange will also qualify as “health benefit plans” for FEHBP coverage. The federal government will, therefore, be able to make a contribution to cover a share of the premiums of an exchange plan.

Fourth, the proposed rule states that members of Congress and their personal staff will continue to qualify for their coverage through the exchange once they retire and will become annuitants under the same terms as other federal annuitants.

Jaw dropping, isn’t it?

What can Trump do? Just tell HHS Secretary Tom Price to change the rule initiated by the Office of Personnel Management that allows members of Congress to receive subsidies like DC small businesses. Remember all the “as the secretary deems” in the ACA? There you go.

We can also go here: https://www.whitehouse.gov/contact and express our support of Congress having to use Obamacare.

Our own Representative, Steve Cohen, is having a townhall this Saturday, August 5 at 10 a.m. at Memphis College of Art (Burton Callicott Auditorium) 1930 Poplar Avenue. Perhaps he would like to share with us how he benefits from his health care package and experience a little blowback.

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