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This issue is not so simply understood, and I have not yet seen a complete analysis of it. Because the Republicans are trying to use to fan the flames of public outrage, the latest being Vitter's grandstanding, it's important to know the full story in order to accurately rebut their argument.  Below is my understanding.  Please correct me if I'm wrong about anything and add facts I have left out.

My understanding is:

1.  Grassley's bill removed Congress and staff from the Federal Employees Health Program and put them into the exchanges.

2.  The Federal Employees Health Program gave Congress (and still gives federal employees) the equivalent of a "silver" or "bronze" plan under the exchanges.

3.  On the exchanges, all Congresspersons and most staff earn too much to qualify for subsidies.  As a result, they will have to purchase insurance in the exchanges, and may only be able to purchase bronze plans.

4. As a result, a new regulation was promulgated to deal with the issue by arranging for the same employer contribution toward payment of the premium for the same "silver" or "gold" policy that the Congressperson or staffer had under the Federal Health Employee Plan.

5.  The end result is that Congressional members and staff are restored to the same status as to the amount of health care benefits they received prior to the Grassley provision.

6.   However, that result is now accomplished under the parameters of the ACA -- i.e., the employer contribution is paying for the same level of care.

7.  Republicans are calling this a subsidy for Congress that other people don't have.

Is this true?

     a.  On the one hand, it's restoring the status quo for them prior to the Grassley stunt bill. Like any private employer, the Federal Government pays relatively generous health benefits, which were part of the employee's compensation.

      b.  On the other hand, because the premium payments are coming from the Federal Government, and are for policies on the exchanges, it gives the Republicans the opportunity to call it a subsidy and propagandize that Congress is treating itself better.

But Congress and staff were always treated "better" than private employees who had inferior or no health insurance prior to the ACA.  Is the end result simply that Republicans are trying to decrease the compensation of Congress and staff by taking away a large part of their health care benefits?

Please comment to correct or add to any of this.

Thanks!

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    lunachickie, Sue B, belinda ridgewood

    The GOP: "You can always go to the Emergency Room."

    by Upper West on Fri Sep 13, 2013 at 12:23:10 PM PDT

  •  They should fix it for everyone not just (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Whatithink, Kimbeaux

    themselves.

    •  The ACA was not intended to provide everyone (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Kimbeaux, phonegery

      with the same high level of coverage.  However, it was intended to permit employees and employers to keep in place the coverage they previously had.

      "fixing it for everyone" would mean either the government or employers, including the government, would have to subsidize the highest level of coverage for everyone.

      Of course, this is a worthwhile goal, but can't be done under Obamacare.

      The GOP: "You can always go to the Emergency Room."

      by Upper West on Fri Sep 13, 2013 at 12:38:15 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Now is a good time to ensure our lawmakers (3+ / 0-)

    make use of the same healthcare (wait, health insurance) we all are to use. No special treatment! I can guaran-damn-tee ya that if they were to use the same as the rest of us, it would be top dollar. This is something to watch in regard to populist politics: does Congress get to bypass the exchanges? And this leads to the next question for the public: If the exchanges are so good, why does Congress want to get around them? This could hurt the promotion of ACA (hence why Republicans are fighting this with the Grassley vote - but not too hard because they don't want to give up their own bennies!) so we need to be vigilant on this. Making it about Vitter and not Congress' perks could bite us if we act as if Congress deserves better than the rest of us, and the exchanges are for the peons.

  •  But Congress and staff were always treated "better (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Kimbeaux, Sue B

    Always has been doesn't make it right.

    We are their employer, did we decide to give them that benefit?

    We are all pupils in the eyes of God.

    by nuclear winter solstice on Fri Sep 13, 2013 at 12:45:11 PM PDT

  •  i think the controversey comes from here (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Upper West, Kimbeaux, erush1345
    4. As a result, a new regulation was promulgated to deal with the issue by arranging for the same employer contribution toward payment of the premium for the same "silver" or "gold" policy that the Congressperson or staffer had under the Federal Health Employee Plan.
    The issue being whether the authority exists to restore the employer contributon in the absense of authorizing legislation.
    •  Yes (0+ / 0-)

      similar to the cases in OK and I think NC in which they are challenging the Reg that provides for subsidies for federal exchanges in states that have set up their own exchanges.  (The statute doesn't have specific provisions for that, but there's a lot of evidence of intent.)

      The GOP: "You can always go to the Emergency Room."

      by Upper West on Fri Sep 13, 2013 at 12:59:49 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  a google search led to this (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Kimbeaux, phonegery, erush1345

        http://online.wsj.com/...

        The Affordable Care Act states clearly that
        all members of Congress and their staff must buy their health insurance through an ObamaCare exchange. The law just as clearly does not reconstitute the generous government premium subsidies that members and staff currently receive. Since most members and staffers earn too much to qualify for subsidies in the dreaded ObamaCare exchanges, they were looking at an enormous financial hit come January.

        Democrats in particular freaked out, and so the White House in early August conjured out of thin air a bailout for the political elite. The Office of Personnel Management announced—with no legal authority—that Congress could keep receiving its giant subsidies. Oh, and the OPM also declared that each member of Congress also gets to define which of his staff is covered by the law. Chances are many staffers will never have to deal with the exchanges at all.

        So there's a second part to the issue. That Congresscritters get to exempt thier staff from the exchanges. Just Because.
        •  Note that is coming (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          myboo

          from the WSJ. There are staff who don't make that much, and the freakout was bipartisan.

          And it's not "just because." There are categories of staff who move between political and congressional staff, as well as personal and committee staff positions. Because of their changing status, OPM (not Democrats in Congress or the White House) determined the only way to really deal with them was to exempt them.

          "The NSA’s capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left, such is the capability to monitor everything. [...] There would be no place to hide."--Frank Church

          by Joan McCarter on Fri Sep 13, 2013 at 01:13:01 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  Right (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Kimbeaux

      that's the crux of the issue.

      Congressional employees have always had an employer contribution to their insurance. The concern—which was totally bipartisan when the issue was first raised with the administraiton and OPM—was that too many staff wouldn't be able to afford to keep working for Congress if they didn't have subsidized health insurance—premiums would have been way too high.

      The GOP Congress wouldn't fix it though, as they won't fix anything in the law. They'll only try to repeal.

      The GOP isn't really fighting over whether OPM had the right to regulate this as much as they're fighting over Obamacare in general.

      "The NSA’s capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left, such is the capability to monitor everything. [...] There would be no place to hide."--Frank Church

      by Joan McCarter on Fri Sep 13, 2013 at 01:10:30 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Excellent questions (0+ / 0-)

    I have seen this meme popping up all over social media and all kinds of blogs, and I'm curious myself.

    Don't get me wrong, I'm glad the President signed off on this. It does fix some things that are broken. But it needs so much more. We've known that since the beginning. But I was outnumbered, op-ed wise, on the minimalist nature of it, so I just kept telling myself "well, we didn't get everything we wanted, but we can fix it later."

    Well, here we are. It's Later, and look at the 'fixing' that is going on, won't you? Maybe the GOP can stop screaming about "Obamacare" long enough to notice that they must have been on-board on this "exemption" on some level? And where were their brethren across the aisle? Agreeing with them?

    This seriously pisses me off. We're never going to reap any benefits--or ever have a chance to try and make it better--with this "fixing" going on already. The shit is doomed before it even gets off the ground, between this perception (regardless of its merits, it doesn't look real good) and the GOP hammering on useless votes to "repeal it".

    (banging head on desk)

    This all started with "what the Republicans did to language".

    by lunachickie on Fri Sep 13, 2013 at 01:10:38 PM PDT

  •  This wrong. It sets a bad precedent. Pass a law (0+ / 0-)

    If you want to change it. If a Republican ever becomes President, do we want him or her to be able to just make things up as they go along? Follow he rule of law.

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