While Washington lawmakers are sharply divided over Obamacare, they have one thing in common: They may end up paying for their own insurance coverage due to an unintentional omission in the law.
In just nine weeks, House and Senate members, and thousands of aides on their personal staffs, will be required to get their health coverage through the new, state-based markets known as insurance exchanges.
But due to an ironic oversight, The New York Times reports
, Obamacare doesn't require the government to pay the premiums, as it does for private employers providing coverage for their workers.
If the government can't find a way to pay, employees on Capitol Hill will have to pay their premiums out of pocket, as much as $5,000 per year for individuals and $11,000 for families.
"It's a very serious concern," Rep. Billy Long, a Missouri Republican, told the Times. He said his staff is "freaked out," noting that the modest salaries congressional aides are paid could make it impossible to continue working on Capitol Hill.
"They're thinking about leaving government service. They're thinking about taking jobs at other places," Long said.
The Office of Personnel Management, which arranges health insurance for federal employees, has no answers.
As it is, the White House and Congress already are sensitive to any suggestion that lawmakers or their aides would get special treatment under the new law, which was the reason why lawmakers on both sides of the aisle wanted to dissolve the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program and put lawmakers into the same types of plans available to their constituents.
The Office of Personnel Management has given little guidance on the matter, but has suggested the issue could be resolved through regulation rather than legislation. A proposal aimed at resolving the issue could come as late as October, when the exchanges are to open.
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