For the past few months, members of Congress and their staffs have been discussing behind closed doors the worrying proposition that they will be forced off their popular health insurance program and onto the federal insurance exchanges set up under Obamacare.
Those concerns reached a fevered pitch this week as President Obama, while making a rare visit to Capitol Hill, assured lawmakers that they and their staffs wouldn’t be foisted onto the same health exchange as millions of Americans. Then late last night, news broke that Obama had “solved” the problem, although no details were available.
Obama and many in Congress are hoping that the Office of Personnel Management can somehow find a way to legally continue paying for members’ health benefits after they lose their current Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) coverage and instead have to get coverage through the new exchanges.
But not so fast, say two Heritage Foundation health scholars and a former general counsel of the OPM. The three health benefit experts scoured Obamacare’s rules, along with other relevant statutes, and found nothing in the law that gives OPM the authority to pay the government’ contributions to any health plan that is outside of the FEHBP.
In other words, members of Congress and their staff will lose the health insurance they like—breaking a big promise from Obama—unless Congress passes another law to preserve its own current coverage. That’s something they have so far been unwilling to do for their constituents, millions of whom are also facing the prospect of losing their current coverage.
“There does not seem to be any way that OPM [and the Obama Administration] can rescue Members of Congress and their staffs,” Heritage’s new report concludes.
Lawmakers and their staffs could keep their coverage by repealing a section of Obamacare, but at what political price?
“Of course, Congress could enact legislative changes,” the report notes. “The problem for Congress, however, is that adopting any possible legislative solution would be viewed by many of their constituents as an act of self-dealing special treatment.”
Why should the people’s representatives get special treatment? Maybe they should have read the health law more carefully before they voted for it. Regardless, it would be a disservice to millions of hard-working Americans and their families for the Administration or Congress to jam through special favors rather than repeal an unpopular, unworkable, and unaffordable law.
With less than two months left until enrollment opens for Obamacare’s insurance exchanges, now is the time for Americans to speak out against the unfair political maneuverings and out-of-control spending within Obamacare.
Heritage’s sister organization Heritage Action will host town-hall meetings this month in nine cities across America. Learn more about the “Defund Obamacare Tour” and find out how you can make your voice heard.
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