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April 25, 2013

Congress and the Affordable Care Act

From Tony Pugh:

A media report that members of Congress were seeking special favors from the White House caused a brief stir on Wednesday evening – until it was refuted by another media outlet on Thursday.

A story in Politico said leaders from both parties were in discussions with the White House about how to skirt a provision of the Affordable Care Act that requires lawmakers and their staffers to use the online insurance marketplaces, or “exchanges,” that become operational in October.

“If this sounds unbelievable, it’s because it is. There’s no effort to “exempt” Congress from Obamacare,” wrote Ezra Klein of the Washington Post in a follow-up story on Thursday.

According to Klein, the only thing being negotiated with the Obama administration is how lawmakers and aides will continue to get their job-based health insurance subsidy if the exchanges aren’t set up to accommodate the payments.

“The exchanges don’t have any procedures for handling premium contributions for large employers,” Klein wrote.

Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill are concerned that their aides may take other jobs if they lose their full healthcare benefits because of the exchanges. They’re waiting for a decision by the federal Office of Personnel Management on how to handle the problem.

In a statement, Adam Jentleson, communications director for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-AZ., made clear that lawmakers weren’t seeking special favors.

“Senator Reid is committed to ensuring that all members of Congress and Congressional staff experience the benefits of the Affordable Care Act in exactly the same way as every other American,”  Jentleson wrote. “There are not now, have never been, nor will there ever be any discussions about exempting members of Congress or congressional staff from Affordable Care Act provisions.”

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