Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
October 21, 2014

Posts in "CAO"

October 14, 2014

‘Special Treatment’ for Congress Inspires Another Obamacare Lawsuit

senatehealth 025 120513 440x287 Special Treatment for Congress Inspires Another Obamacare Lawsuit

DC Health Link enrollment is under attack. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

This time it’s not a lawmaker, but an outside conservative group that plans to file suit over alleged “special treatment” for members of Congress enrolled in gold-level coverage plans through DC Health Link.

Judicial Watch, the group that continues to dog the Department of Health and Human Services for more transparency about implementation of the 2010 health care law, will share details Wednesday of a “taxpayer lawsuit challenging the District of Columbia’s special treatment of Congress concerning Obamacare.”

The announcement is planned at an event at the National Press Club, where plaintiff Kirby Vining and Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton plan to join attorneys. Details are sparse. Congress accounts for more than a quarter of the 50,520 people enrolled in the D.C. health exchange, and the subsidy members and staff receive to cover premiums has been taking heat from all sides.

DC Health Link offered private sessions to staffers in advance of the Dec. 9 open enrollment deadline, plus on-site help sessions at the Capitol with employees from Aetna and Blue Cross Blue Shield. Several staffers who worked in district offices in other parts of the country complained about the enrollment process, and those working in Washington offices experienced technical glitches.

This is not the first suit Judicial Watch has filed related to the exchanges. In March, they filed two lawsuits against HHS to obtain records, one of which related to security and privacy concerns surrounding the Healthcare.gov web portal.

On August 8, they filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit seeking emails and documents involving communications to and from former HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Marilyn Tavenner. Judicial Watch wants to know what was said about enrollment figures, performance and security testing of the site, decisions about when to make certain information publicly available, plus other FOIA requests.

Jill Sutherland Farrell, director of Judicial Watch, declined to provide further information on the plaintiff or the nature of the lawsuit in a phone call with CQ Roll Call.

The liberal watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington has criticized the special support sessions at the Capitol and help hotlines offered to members and staff. They challenged that insurance companies provided perks in violation of congressional ethics rules.

Members of both parties on Capitol Hill have targeted the employer contributions members of Congress receive for coverage in the D.C. health care exchange. Democratic Reps. Dan Maffei of New York, John Barrow of Georgia and Ron Barber of Arizona, want to eliminate government contributions towards their premiums through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program. Louisiana GOP Sen. David Vitter has also continued to offer his amendment targeting contributions for staffers.

RELATED STORIES:

Democrats Target Health Care Used by Congress

Health Insurance for Congress and Staff: It’s Complicated

Capitol Hill Feels Pains of Obamacare Sign-Up Troubles

Vitter Amendment Won’t Go Away Quietly

As Open Enrollment Deadline Approaches, Insurers Scramble to Give Staffers Support

Roll Call Election Map: Race Ratings for Every Seat

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call in your inbox or on your iPhone.

July 29, 2014

Protest Raises Questions About Contract Workers of Legislative Branch

nortonellison 330x330 Protest Raises Questions About Contract Workers of Legislative Branch

Norton and Ellison rally with federal contractors who work at Union Station, the National Zoo and other D.C. sites. (Hannah Hess/CQ Roll Call)

Labor issues came to Capitol Hill Tuesday, as federal contractors protested wages at Union Station and members of Congress used the opportunity to discuss workers’ rights among contractors and employees in the legislative branch.

About 100 federal contractors who work minimum wage jobs at Union Station, Ronald Reagan National Airport, the National Zoo and the Pentagon marched through Columbus Circle on Tuesday morning waving picket signs and flags.

Halting the flow of taxis and tour buses at Union Station, they protested the White House’s executive order to increase hourly pay on new government contracts to $10.10 as “not enough” and demanded the right to unionize.

“These courageous workers have gone on strike nine times,” said Rev. Michael Livingston, national policy director and head of the Washington, D.C., office for Interfaith Worker Justice. The people waving white and blue flags behind his lectern were predominantly women, many dressed like Rosie the Riveter in red bandanas and starched blue shirts and holding the hands of toddlers who marched alongside their working moms. Full story

July 8, 2014

Health Insurance for Congress and Staff: It’s Complicated

senatehealth 025 120513 440x287 Health Insurance for Congress and Staff: Its Complicated

DC HealthLink sent representatives to the Hart Senate Office Building to help employees with health insurance enrollment last December. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

As members of Congress and their staffs head into their second year of enrollment in D.C.’s health exchange, they’ll decide among plans that range from a double-digit increase to a double-digit percent decrease in premiums, even as providers go in different directions that will result in fewer overall plans to choose from.

Congress accounts for more than a quarter of the 50,520 people enrolled in the D.C. health exchange. As of July 1, there were 12,906 members of Congress and staffers enrolled in DC SHOP plans, according to D.C. Health Benefit Exchange spokeswoman Linda Wharton Boyd.

It is unclear which of the four carriers providing coverage to Congress is most popular among members and staffers. Boyd said D.C.’s health benefit exchange did not release carrier statistics to the public. But each carrier has taken a varied approach to premiums and the number of plans offered to Capitol Hill workers.

Full story

April 28, 2014

How Much Do Congressional Contractors Make? It Depends

Democrats have championed pay issues on Capitol Hill, promoting equal pay for women, pushing legislation that would increase the minimum wage and praising President Barack Obama for imposing his policies on federal contractors.

New executive orders to bar federal contractors from retaliating against employees who discuss their pay with each other and require them to provide compensation data based on gender and race have won praise from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., as “concrete actions to advance the equal pay effort.”

But the administration’s new rules, including an executive order to increase the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour for workers on new government contracts, only apply to companies that contract with the executive branch. The contract employees of the legislative branch — workers performing a broad range of jobs around Capitol Hill, ranging from technology support and construction, to security, food and janitorial services — are not necessarily affected. Full story

April 10, 2014

Heartbleed Forces Emergency Maintenance of House, Senate Sites

Members of Congress were among the millions of Americans who found out their data might be at risk as a result of the major Internet security flaw exposed earlier this week, the “Heartbleed” virus.

People visiting House.gov, member or committee websites on Wednesday night may have hit error messages as the technology support team of House Chief Administrative Officer Ed Cassidy performed emergency maintenance.

“There are no indications the House has suffered a security breach,” Cassidy said in an email sent to members and employees on Wednesday that was obtained by CQ Roll Call. “CAO engineers are updating the security protocols as part of the work they do to protect the House from cyber security threats.” Full story

Sign In

Forgot password?

Or

Subscribe

Receive daily coverage of the people, politics and personality of Capitol Hill.

Subscription | Free Trial

Logging you in. One moment, please...