Congress, Staff Boxed Into 'Gold' Obamacare

Thursday, 03 Oct 2013 09:26 PM

By Cathy Burke

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Congress members and their staffers will have to go to the much-debated Obamacare exchanges to get insured — and they can't just settle for the cheapest plan either.

The Office of Personnel Management notified Congress to choose from gold-tier plans — the generally more expensive of the options — which are the only ones eligible for government subsidy, The Hill reported Thursday.

Under the gold-tier option, policyholders have to pick up 20 percent of the costs, with 80 percent of the expenses covered.

Urgent: Do You Support Sen. Ted Cruz's Efforts to Defund Obamacare? Vote Here.

The Federal Employees Health Benefits program that Congress now gets -- and which Republican Rep. Darrell Issa of California wants expanded to cover all Americans -- is being terminated for members of Congress Dec. 31.

Ironically, the program looks a lot like Obamacare in that it sets up a marketplace where private insurers clamor for policyholders, Business Insider reported.

The Chief Administrative Officer of the House told Congress in a fact sheet this week that they will choose plans from the gold level.

The fact sheet notes that nothing prevents them from "declining a Government contribution" by choosing another plan level — such as the lower-coverage bronze or silver, or the top-of-the-line platinum plan.

"You see, bronze and silver’s only good enough for everyone else in this country," Rep. Andy Harris, a Republican from Maryland, groused on the House floor, according to The Hill. "For members of Congress and members of the Senate and their staffs, it's gold or nothing.”

The fact sheet also says that the only way for members of Congress to get subsidies for their insurance plan is by using the Washington, D.C., health insurance exchange, or SHOP.

"All Members of Congress, including representatives of U.S. Territories, and their designated staff will be required to purchase health insurance via the DC SHOP in order to receive a Government contribution," it says. "The DC SHOP offers health plan options with in-network access to medical providers across the nation and overseas."

Harris said allowing members to be subsidized for only buying gold-level coverage is probably why many members don't want to eliminate the subsidy for Congress -- something Republicans have been pushing. 

Urgent: Do You Support Sen. Ted Cruz's Efforts to Defund Obamacare? Vote Here.

"That's why this fight has been for a clean [continuing resolution]," Harris said. "No one wants to remove that exemption."

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