Congressmen, Staff Prepare to Quit Over Obamacare

Image: Congressmen, Staff Prepare to Quit Over Obamacare Rep. Louie Gohmert

Friday, 09 Aug 2013 10:03 AM

By John Gizzi

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Several members of Congress will announce their retirements and congressional staffers will be making retirement plans when Congress returns from summer recess next month, more than a few seasoned observers of Capitol Hill predict.

Why? Because of Obamacare, these observers predict.

With present Congressional health benefits coming under the aegis of the Affordable Care Act — the official name for Obamacare) — Jan. 1, the paychecks of members of Congress and their staffs will be affected in a big way.

The Office of Personnel Management has approved a rule allowing current congressional healthcare subsidies to continue. Members of Congress and their personal office staffs, however, still must start buying their insurance on their individual states' Obamacare exchanges rather than choose from among the plans available to other federal employees.

"I'm going to have to get my health insurance through the Virginia exchange now," a veteran U.S. House staffer told Newsmax last week, "and I don't know the first thing about it."

Another Hill staffer who has worked for a House member for nearly 20 years — and who has a pre-existing condition — told Newsmax he planned to retire on Jan. 1 and seek another job.

"I just can't afford the change in [health benefits]," he said, pointing out there will be a bigger bite from his paycheck because of Obamacare.

Staffers who work for the House leadership or who are on the staffs of congressional committees will remain under the current healthcare system.

All other federal employees still will be under the Federal Employees Health Benefits program, including those who work at the White House and the Internal Revenue Service, which will play a pivotal role in administering and enforcing Obamacare.

"Many of the staff who are not working for leadership or committees have indicated to us they are planning to look for other jobs after January,” Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas told reporters Aug. 1 at a news conference of lawmakers and conservative leaders who support defunding Obamacare.

Asked if any of his colleagues have discussed retiring from office because of the change in healthcare, Gohmert said several have talked about it.

Earlier this year, at age 53 and after 10 years in Congress, Republican Rep. Jo Bonner of Alabama resigned to head up the government-relations office at the University of Alabama.

This week, six-term Republican Rep. Rodney Alexander of Louisiana announced his intention to resign from office in September and become Louisiana’s secretary of veteran affairs under Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal.

Although neither Bonner nor Alexander cited Obamacare among reasons for quitting Congress before Jan. 1, the timing of their changes in jobs certainly sparked speculation that it was a factor in their decisions.

No one would be surprised if other members of Congress follow the path of Bonner and Alexander by "cutting and running" before Jan. 1.

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.

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