Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
November 1, 2014

Heller Wants All Congressional Staff in Obamacare Exchanges

Sen. Dean Heller is asking the Office of Management and Budget to require all congressional staff to get health care through the new exchanges.

The Nevada Republican’s letter comes one day after two other Senate Republicans announced legislation to require senior executive branch officials and all congressional staff to get their health care through the Obamacare exchanges. Those senators were Michael B. Enzi of Wyoming and David Vitter of Louisiana.

The full letter appears below:

 

The Honorable Elaine Kaplan

Acting Director

Office of Personnel Management

1900 E Street, NW

Washington, D.C. 20415

Dear Acting Director Kaplan:

I write to you today expressing my disappointment with your agency’s proposed rule to amend the Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) Program regarding coverage for Members of Congress and their staff. Rather than seizing this opportunity to clearly mandate that all Congressional staff, including Committee and Leadership, be subject to the consequences of ObamaCare, you simply perpetuated this uncertainty. This is a missed opportunity for the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), which currently administers and operates Congressional health care, to ensure that all Congressional staff, including Committee and Leadership, play by the same rules as the American taxpayer.

Since my time on the House of Representatives’ Ways and Means Committee, I pushed for legislation to include all Members of Congress and their dependents in the exchanges. As details became clearer as to who would be exempt from the legislation, I asked that all Congressional staff, the President, and political appointees be included under the exchanges so we could avoid this exact issue we face today. As you issue your final rule in order to comply with Section 1312 of the Affordable Care Act, I encourage you to clarify this issue once and for all and require in addition to Members of Congress that all Congressional staff – Committee and Leadership – to go into the exchanges. In the absence of such a regulatory certainty, Congress should provide a legislative fix that will determine who is and who is not covered under the exchanges. I have cosponsored legislation with Senator David Vitter (R-LA), requiring Leadership and Committee staff, as well as the executive branch, to be included under the health care exchanges so that the application of this section of the Affordable Care Act can finally be determined. I will continue to push both Senate and House Leadership for consideration of this legislation.

By no means should those who wrote this massive health care law be exempt from the health care exchanges. When the Administration issued its draft rule determining how this law applies to staff, this principle should have been made very clear. Let me reiterate my deep concern for the implementation of the health care exchanges. However, if every American must be subject to ObamaCare, then all Members of Congress and their staff, you, and all political appointees must be included in this onerous mandate as well.

Sincerely,

DEAN HELLER

U.S. Senator

 

 

  • Jesse4

    Petty time-wasting.

    • boyd2

      I guess creating a bloated bureaucracy full of
      political favors, whose sole intent is to place totalitarian, governmental
      controls over the lives of citizens with no concern whatsoever for medicine was a proper use of time?

      • David

        That certainly wouldn’t be a proper use of time. Good thing the only place that has happened is inside your head.

        • RickyBombastic

          at least he has one.

  • Bob Viering

    First of all, I am a supporter of the Affordable Care Act. As a business owner who advises many small businesses I have seen the costs of health care spiral out of control and have seen many businesses drop health care due to the unsustainable costs (and this was long before the ACA came along). While I won’t profess to love all parts of the ACA it is the first real attempt to get more Americans health care coverage since Medicare.

    I do agree with Sen. Heller that government employees be subject to the same regulations as the rest of us. Of course, Sen. Heller was not writing about what is equitable but, was being snarky. If Sen. Heller doesn’t like the ACA then I would strongly suggest he puts forth an alternative that provides coverage to just as many Americans as the ACA, addresses pre-existing conditions, coverage for children to age 26 on their parents policies etc. I for one, am not willing to go back to the bad old days where my health insurance costs had double digit increases every year and my 23 year old daughter has to find her own health insurance.

    Health care costs are a serious issue in this country. If you don’t have a better solution then keep your mouth shut.

    • boyd2

      “I for one, am not willing to go back to the bad old days ” Instead welcome to the new days where when you phone up Blue Cross to get insurance they tell you they have no idea what they are going to do and can’t issue a policy of any kind to my wife who will lose her health insurance Dec. 31st – 11 months before she becomes eligible for Medicare. The only thing they were sure of is that if they ever do get policies written they will be MUCH more expensive than they are now. This is a better solution? 3000 pages of governmentese with millions of pages of regulations no one has seen or can interpret is a better solution??? Let me guess. When the insurance system for healthcare grinds to the now inevitable halt your even better solution is to go to single-payer since clearly this is all the fault of the insurance companies.

      • David

        Your wife is in luck! The ACA health care exchanges open for enrollment on October 1st. She’ll be able to buy insurance for 2014 there, and (I say without knowing your respective income levels) she will priobably be eligible for a subsidy to help her cover the costs. Thank goodness for the ACA, huh?

        • CuriousKevmo

          Actually, they won’t be checking income levels so she can get whatever subsidy she wants. What could go wrong?

          • David

            Actually they will, so let’s not advocate fraud. The employer reporting requirements were suspended, but the IRS and SSA still know how much you make.

          • Gambler2

            I am sometimes astounded at the claims of the trolls out to spread lies about the ACA. This is one of those times. The GOP must have hired a million of them with funds they probably got from the Koch brothers.

        • boyd2

          Obtuse much.

      • Gambler2

        This is quite strange. I am on Medicare, but my husband is with Anthem Blue Cross, yet he has received no notice that anything will change. In fact we got an open enrollment booklet that assured us the if we don’t want to change, everything will stay the same.

        • boyd2

          Funny. They told me they could tell me nothing about a new policy till enrollment starts Oct. 1st. Since nothing can be started till Oct. 1st – just as the law says. IOW you made that up. At least that’s what the Koch brothers told me.

    • Diggsc

      Congratulations, your membership in the sheep club has been upgraded to lifetime. Why have your 23 year old ADULT daughter get her own insurance when she can stay on yours? Why even bother to take care of your own health requirements when you can just sit back and let a government bureaucrat decide whether you get cancer treatments or a hip replacement? Life is so much easier when someone (who, by the way, gets a year-end bonus based on how much they saved in health care payments) is making the decisions for health care, especially since they don’t know you at all!

      • Bob Viering

        Not that it is any of your business but, the reason my daughter is on her parents health policy is that she just graduated from college and does not have a job with health benefits yet. It would be reckless and irresponsible to allow her to go without and risk financial ruin if she had even a fairly minor health issue.

        The balance of your comments show clearly that you have not read one page of what the ACA will do but, have bought in to the far rights distortions. Do us all a favor and do your homework before you comment. There are plenty of reputable fact checking sites you can use.

        We still have sheep ranches where I live so, I’ll accept your invitation to the sheep club.

      • Gambler2

        Diggsc, you need to read the law before you go bad-mouthing it. It’s easy to find – just Google the Affordable Care Act and educate yourself.

    • cubanbob

      Really? I am a small business owner myself and thanks to the ACA mandates my costs are going up to the point I’m thinking of dropping the insurance. I’m paying $6,000 per year per employee for 100% employee HMO but with the expected 40% increase in premiums next year largely due to the ACA it looks like I may drop it since even after the tax consequences I would save a lot of money. I don’t want to do it but in this horrible economy resulting in very meager profits I may not have a choice.

      • Bob Viering

        I sincerely hope your business does well enough going forward so you don’t feel forced to drop health insurance. When you drop health insurance it effectively drops your employees compensation. This often leads to good employees going to work elsewhere. The cost of hiring, training and managing new employees with the typical disruption it causes until they are up to speed is often far costlier than an increase in health insurance costs.

        If your costs are going up 40% I’m wiling to bet it has more to do with the level of claims in your group.

    • Gambler2

      BRAVO! Great post, Bob.

  • JackSheet

    Next Senators and Members need to be put in Social Security. Perhaps that problem would be solved if they had to live by their own rules.

    And a ‘brain drain’ would be a feature not a bug.

    • mouldfan

      Just so you know, Members and Senators have been “in Social Security” since 1985.

  • EWS

    It would be nice if republicans worked to improve the legistation instead of just obstructing. Once again the Republicans play a cynical game. Grassley puts a posion pill amendment in and instead of coming together to fix it, they just use it to try and deny people insurance.

    • boyd2

      Hmmm. Hadn’t occurred to me that under it all Republicans simply want people to die.

      • cubanbob

        Starting with you it would be a blessing. Buy your own insurance.

        • boyd2

          Dude. I know comments can be hard but I thought the sarcasm there was pretty obvious.

    • Diggsc

      So it’s not cynical to call a bill “The Affordable Care Act” when it’s actually raising premiums? It’s not cynical to say the bill will streamline health care when it adds over 200,000 new pages of regulations? It’s not cynical to say “We have to pass the bill to know what’s in it.”. It’s not cynical to say that the ACA will help provide millions of people health care when it is actually putting millions into part-time work?

      Keep drinking the koolaid, because it’s about all the medicine you’ll get for your illness out of Obamacare.

    • tonto

      They didn’t want the input from Repubs while the bill was being made, but they are willing to listen now?

      • David

        Sure sounds like they listened to input from Repubs given that the Grassley amendment was proposed by Churck Grassley, who is of course a Republican.

        • tonto

          A quote from Grassleys web site concerning his amendment,“Remember, it was Republicans who made this law apply to Congress, not the Democrats who wrote the law. The Democrats were perfectly fine with applying Obamacare to the entire economy but leaving themselves out. Despite passage of my amendment, Democrats still carved out exemptions for high-level staff, despite Republican efforts to undo the carve-outs, and Democrats refused to make Obamacare apply to the White House itself.” So no David, there was no input writing the bill itself, and that would be a swing and a miss.

          • David

            Well, I can guarantee that at least 11 Democrats voted for it, and probably more like 21 since most amendments had to meet a 60 vote threshold. Also,Republicans are deliberately lying about what the Grassley amendment did to score political points. The Grassley amendment DID NOT apply the same rules to Congress as it does to the public, it applies special rules that ONLY apply to Congress.

            PPACA applies to everyone who serves in the federal government, period. Everyone is required to have health insurance. For most Americans that means health insurance through their employers (which is generally heavily subsidized). For those who are not offered health insurance through an employer, they will be able to buy it on the exchanges. What the Grassley amendment did is say that Congress and their staffs, who are offered health insurance through their employer like most people, are not allowed to accept that health insurance, and must instead buy their plans through the exchanges. This requirement applies to NO ONE else in the country, so Republicans can stop their lies about how it’s making Congress the same as everyone else. This would make health insurance more expensive for staffers, and they wouldn’t get the employer-subsidized rates they do now. Low income staffers (of which there are many) would be able to get income subsidies to help, but staffers who make more than $45,000 would have to pay significantly more. Alternatively, they could leave government service and get subsidized health insurance like most Americans in the private sector. This is the “brain drain” that they were concerned about, and it would be a problem unless you’re ok with 24 year olds with no experience in government writing our nations laws. The resolution was that OPM would continue to pay the employer subsidies to Congress and their staff, and they could just apply those subsidies to the plans they’re being required to purchase on the exchanges. So really, this “deal to exempt Congress from the ACA” is actually the exact opposite. It’s a deal to keep Congress in roughly the same position as the public, despite asinine amendments by the GOP.

          • tonto

            Still not addressing the issue as to who WROTE the bill, are you, could it be because you where dead wrong? This is the only reason I responded to you. And frankly, if they were willing to pass the law, they should be able to live like the least of us that have to follow the law. Or, if they are willing to put people into these exchanges they should lead the way, especially since they pretty much write their own perks. I have no say as to what they make, and in my mind $170,000+ is a little to much. Why you’d almost think they are 1%ers, actually they come in juuust under the wire. You don’t think thats by design do you?

            Speaking of liars. “If you like your insurance you can keep it,” I know of 15,000 people whose spouses work at UPS, and chose to use UPS insurance that have been dropped. Thats just one employer and the ball is just started to roll.

      • Gambler2

        They did get input from the Repubs. Didn’t you watch any of the committee hearings?

        • Chillycat2

          MOST of the hearings were held behind closed doors that were literally locked to keep the republicans out. Your memory does not serve you well… Start googling about what really was going on back then!

          • Gambler2

            You are mistaken. Do some research.

          • Chillycat2

            Wish I was but I’m not. The Dems absolutely shut the Republicans out… As to why you want to revise history…well sorry buddy you lefties own this bill lock stock and barrel… Go off and tell yourself whatever you need to sleep at night but Everyone knows the truth about this disaster….IT’S ALL YOURS!!!!

          • Gambler2

            All you have to do is Google “History of the Affordable Care Act.” Wikipedia has the best condensed version that I have found, but there others as well. You have been grossly mislead about the legislative background of the bill. Do some research.

          • Chillycat2

            Oh here’s some research for YOU of the typical crap the dems pulled throughout…,
            http://www.nbcnews.com/id/34692080/ns/health-health_care/t/dems-bypass-tradition-final-health-deal/

          • Gambler2

            Well for sure the Dems did what ever was necessary to get the bill passed. With the Republicans threatening filibuster and acting as if Obama hadn’t been elected in a land slide, the Democrats did what they needed to do. So you tell my why when the Republicans had input at every step of crafting the bill and even supported the individual mandate, they decided to vote against it? Could it be all the money they had been taking from the health insurance industry and the drug companies.
            The final Affordable Care Act is pretty much identical to the bill proposed by the Heritage Foundation in the 1990′s.

    • cubanbob

      There is nothing to fix. It’s a train wreck.

      • David

        That would imply that there is a lot to fix. I’m also not sure how you can claim it’s train wreck when it hasn’t even come into effect. At best, people are operating under guesses as to what’s going to happen.

    • Chillycat2

      So not a single one voted for it , not a single one thought it would be anything other than a disaster for this country… Which it is proving to be… And somehow in the tiny lefty brain of yours it’s up to them to FIX the unfixable and save the Democrats corrupt self serving azzes. Gee when the left doesn’t like a bill they NEVER try to fix… They simply ignore it… Maybe we should take a page.

  • Alarms & Discursions

    Note: the IRS employees union has demanded a waiver for its employees. They’ll enforce the law, but don’t you dare ask them to live within the law.

  • cubanbob

    Waivers and exemptions for all or waivers and exemption for none. Equality under the law.

  • bittman

    This will be interesting since the Democrats have been preaching that the President only made it possible for the OPM to pay 75% of the Congressional staff’s health insurance — they’ve been insisting that all of Congress would still be in the Obamacare exchanges. I thought it was another Democrat lie; it will be interesting to find out the truth.

  • Guest

    dfa

  • Slam1263

    So, basically he’s saying; eat your peas.

  • Benjamin Dover

    We should remember that certain notions, such as socialism’s fatal theory of society by design, are little more than the odd notions of crazed men that have been continuously recycled within the ivory towers of detached academics.

    • Gambler2

      Hey, Ben, don’t you think your sentence is a little long?

      • Benjamin Dover

        I think this audience is perfectly capable of comprehending it.

        • Gambler2

          Oh I comprehended it alright. I just think you could have gotten your point across in a less convoluted manner. But I used to teach English, so perhaps I am a little picky.

          • Benjamin Dover

            Well, what do you think of it?

          • Gambler2

            I don’t agree with you, but your use of language shows that you are an educated person. I think we should have a little socialism that provides for the less fortunate. In my opinion, pure capitalism is not good nor healthy for humans and other living creatures.

          • Benjamin Dover

            Here’s a brief introduction to the primitive superstitions of socialism:

            http://www.savageleft.com/poli/hoc.html

          • Gambler2

            Sorry, but I am not impressed with the article you cited. It is well-slanted to the right. I am highly educated and have taken quite a few history and political science classes at the college level. In addition, I am an avid reader of both fiction and non fiction. Have a nice day and thanks for the link.

          • Benjamin Dover

            Igor Shafarevich and Alexandr Solzhenitsyn are quite arguably the two most important Russian dissidents who fought back against the primitive superstitions of the Bolsheviks.

  • ershaffer

    The Exchanges are a vehicle to cover the uninsured, who
    until now have had nowhere to turn for coverage, and an option for small
    businesses. There is no reason to alter any one large employer health plan,
    including the FEHBP, unless Congress plans to include all of them (moving towards a “public option.”). The law already requires members of Congress to be
    covered through the Exchanges. Since what is going on here is political theater
    and not policy, it would be interesting to see a member of Congress re-introduce
    that proposal for a vote, and invite Sen. Heller and other members to vote to
    exempt themselves.

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