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.