Federal Lawmakers, Staff To Keep Employer Contribution Under ACA
On Thursday, The Office of Personnel Management said it will allow lawmakers and their staff to keep their employer contribution toward health insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act, the New York Times reports (Pear, New York Times, 8/2).
The ACA calls for all House and Senate lawmakers and their aides to enroll in the law's health insurance exchanges. However, OPM until now had not been clear about whether lawmakers and their aides could continue to receive the employer contribution to help them purchase coverage (Palmer/Sherman, Politico, 6/13). Currently, the federal government covers about 75% of staffers' health insurance costs through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (Lesniewski/Ethridge, CQ Roll Call, 8/1).
The loss of the employer contribution prompted concern among lawmakers and congressional staffers about potentially high health insurance premiums (Politico, 6/13).
Under the new directive, the government will be allowed to continue to contribute to staffers and lawmakers' premiums. However, lawmakers and their aides will not be eligible for the subsidies available to other U.S. residents through the ACA intended to help purchase coverage (CQ Roll Call, 8/1).
According to the Times, the arrangement is "unusual" since lawmakers and their aides will be the only employees of a large organization allowed access to the exchanges in 2014. Typically, the exchanges are intended for people shopping for individual coverage or employees of small businesses.
Further, everyone else using the exchanges will be doing so voluntarily, while the lawmakers and their staff members are required by law to purchase coverage through the exchanges (New York Times, 8/2).
Why Not the White House?
Some Capitol Hill observers wondered why Obama administration officials were not required to purchase coverage through the exchanges.
An administration official said, "We have no legal authority to do that. But we would support legislation that would apply the same standard to the President and the White House staff and cabinet members." He added, "We believe the insurance exchanges are a very good deal, a very good benefit, and we're happy to be in them" (Klein, "Wonkblog," Washington Post, 8/1).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.