Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
December 22, 2014

Democrats Target Health Care Used by Congress

Barrow 05 012313 440x292 Democrats Target Health Care Used by Congress

Barrow wants to eliminate federal health benefits for members. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The latest challenge to Office of Personnel Management rules on congressional health benefits comes from President Barack Obama’s own party.

Democratic Reps. Dan Maffei of New York, John Barrow of Georgia and Ron Barber of Arizona, are targeting the employer contributions members of Congress receive for coverage in the D.C. health care exchange. Unlike the contentious amendment offered by Louisiana GOP Sen. David Vitter, their bill would not eliminate contributions for staffers.

Barrow, who voted in 2010 against the creation of the health care law, said staff aren’t responsible for the “perverse incentives in Obamacare” that prompted some employers to kick people off their coverage. “I don’t feel a similar compulsion to set an example at their expense,” he told CQ Roll Call. His full staff was designated as having to enter the exchange.

Under the “Members Play By the Same Rules Act of 2014,” members of the House and Senate who served on or after March 23, 2010, the day Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law, would no longer be eligible to get government contributions towards their premiums through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program. Those members of Congress would still be subject to the law’s minimum coverage requirements, but they could only enroll in coverage through the federal or state exchanges in their home districts.

Republicans have criticized Barrow, a leader in the Blue Dog Coalition of centrist Democrats, for opposing their multiple votes to repeal the entire health care law. Barrow has co-sponsored legislation to repeal the employer mandate and introduced a bill to repeal the individual mandate. He says he wants to preserve parts of Obamacare, such as a ban on insurance companies denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions, and a provision allowing children under 26 to stay on their parents’ health insurance plans, but thinks Congress must improve the law.

“Current members of Congress are responsible, it’s not just the members that passed this thing that are culpable,” Barrow said.

The congressman is among the nearly 13,000 members of Congress and staff enrolled in gold-level Small Business Health Option Program plans on the D.C. exchange, but he claims he has been paying the full cost of his family’s health coverage from his own pocket.

Maffei is enrolled in a co-op plan offered through the New York State of Health exchange. The congressman also says he pays his premium out of pocket every month.

Barber and his wife, Nancy, donate the $984.14 they receive each month for federal employee health insurance contributions to Southern Arizona charities.

For the GOP, federal court has become the forum for challenging the federal contributions to congressional health care. Last week, Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., filed his intent to appeal a recent judge’s ruling that he had no standing to sue the Obama administration over congressional health benefits. Johnson vowed to “exhaust every legal resource” in his effort to dismantle the OPM rule.

Barrow dismissed the legal battle, saying the effects of the healthcare law ought to be a guide for how Congress should act. ”We shouldn’t be arguing about what was done,” he said.

All three Democratic lawmakers represent districts that Republicans would love to win this fall. Barber is on Roll Call’s list of the most vulnerable House members and Barrow earns an honorable mention. Maffei’s re-election bid is the least competitive, according to race ratings by The Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call.

 

Related Stories:

Roll Call on the Road: John Barrow Ready to Fight

Top 10 Most Vulnerable House Members

Shooting in the Rear View, Ron Barber Drives His Own Way

Roll Call Election Map: Race Ratings for Every Seat

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  • Layla

    I wonder if these men would be willing to comment on the following:

    “We have to pass the bill in order to find out what’s in it” (House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, D-CA)

    “If you like your doctor you can keep your doctor” (President Barack Obama)

    The FACT is, you shoved this down the throats of the American people and hopefully, will be VOTED OUT because of that.

    • tarheel T party

      Why would they comment on somebody else’s comments completely removed from context? Also why would Barrow (voted No) and Barber (was not in Congress) be asked to defend these decontextualized statements?

      Your prediction they will be voted out because of the ACA might seem more genuine had all three of them not, ya know, been elected in 2012.

      • Layla

        Why shouldn’t they have to comment on the former Speaker’s and President’s comments? They are in Congress NOW.

        • tarheel T party

          Maybe because they didn’t make these comments? Do we really want our legislators occupying themselves commenting on others’ comments rather than, say, legislating?

  • Callsign Viper

    Like marxism, the “big idea” of today’s liberalism is the notion that a self-proclaimed group of the uber-enlightened are somehow magically entitled to consciously direct the future of mankind.

  • YONATAN C

    It’s truly sad how disconnected both political parties are from mainstream America. This is just but one issue out of so many other issues affecting us. The situation with the more than three million unemployed families, still without an unemployment extension bill, is a critical issue, that both parties seemed to have walked away from and forgot about. Unfortunately, for these financially ruined families, it’s not possible to have that luxury. These workers, whom many are “older workers”, have lost everything, while waiting for the senate to finally pass an extension bill to help them recover from 8 months without benefits, and means to pay credit bills. Now, many have become financially ruined, and deep in debt. When the average American is only one or two paychecks away from being able to sustain themselves, you can imagine how much 8 months of no payments can do to a family. When the Congress approves Billions of dollars for the Ukraine, and other countries, and commits our children to another term in Iraq, we back home here, are having to go homeless and hungry. Our government can’t even take care of our veterans from the last war. But I’m sure the senators and congressman receive the very best healthcare, and perks, and salary, that the average citizens could only dream of. We Americans have finally become the “servants” of our so called “Public Servants’. It’s time we change that in the coming elections.

  • YONATAN C

    It’s truly sad how disconnected both political parties are from mainstream America. This is just but one issue out of so many other issues affecting us. The situation with the more than three million unemployed families, still without an unemployment extension bill, is a critical issue, that both parties seemed to have walked away from and forgot about. Unfortunately, for these financially ruined families, it’s not possible to have that luxury. These workers, whom many are “older workers”, have lost everything, while waiting for the senate to finally pass an extension bill to help them recover from 8 months without benefits, and means to pay credit bills. Now, many have become financially ruined, and deep in debt. When the average American is only one or two paychecks away from being able to sustain themselves, you can imagine how much 8 months of no payments can do to a family. When the Congress approves Billions of dollars for the Ukraine, and other countries, and commits our children to another term in Iraq, we back home here, are having to go homeless and hungry. Our government can’t even take care of our veterans from the last war. But I’m sure the senators and congressman receive the very best healthcare, and perks, and salary, that the average citizens could only dream of. We Americans have finally become the “servants” of our so called “Public Servants’. It’s time we change that in the coming elections..

  • Melissa Newton

    In related news, another liberal democrat reprobate has been arrested on child pornography charges: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/crime/man-featured-time-arrested-child-porn-charges-article-1.1460665

  • Barney Ross

    Today’s liberalism is like communism without the manifesto.

  • Brenda

    You and ALL, Congress and Senate members DO NOT belong in the FEHB, you all where ELECTED, not interviewed and then hired as a Federal Employee!!!! This is a NON ISSUE! Rediclous! I personally do not know the status of your staff, but YOU did NOT earn the right to be an FEHB member!!!

    This totally ticks me off that for whatever reason, you all and Congress (*members*) are allowed to be in OUR system. The regular FEDERAL employees Have apply, interview ext., to be employed with the federal govt. You all where ELECTED. Completely different. You and your ILK make me sick!!!!!

  • Anne Droid

    There’s no material difference between today’s liberals and their socialist ancestors.

  • Veck Torr

    Do you think that the ghost of Karl Marx is thrilled about his resurrection by liberals in these states?

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