Congress Gets Perks if Members Get Obamacare Through DC Exchange

Image: Congress Gets Perks if Members Get Obamacare Through DC Exchange

Monday, 02 Dec 2013 04:53 AM

By Elliot Jager

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Members of Congress who are signing up for insurance through the District of Columbia health exchange are getting enhanced customer service and benefits, The Los Angeles Times reported.
During the 2010 debate on the Affordable Care Act, goaded by Iowa Republican Sen. Charles Grassley, Congress voted that members and staff members would give up their first-class congressional coverage and purchase health insurance though the exchanges just like other Americans.

Over time this solidarity was modified and diluted, according to the Times.

Elected officials are now treated as "small businesses" at the DC exchange instead of as individuals, and can choose from 112 plans, compared to 34 available to the general public.

This puts their benefits package in line with what was available to them prior to Obamacare. 

In-person counseling also is available on Capitol Hill to assist with questions members or their staffers may have.

Four major insurers are actively competing for their business and have dedicated hotlines to queries from members of Congress, the Times reported.

These perks are no different than those offered to other large employers in the District of Columbia, say congressional staffers.

It was Grassley's intent in 2010 that Congress live under the same healthcare policies it was imposing on the rest of the country. Now, however, participation is no longer required and elected officials and staff members who get insurance from the D.C. exchange are eligible for subsidies of as much as 75 percent of their monthly costs.

Capitol Hill staff members who do not work directly in a lawmaker's office may keep their old health plans.

The Times reports that politicians are aware that receiving special treatment might not be politically wise. Senate Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said he will donate the value of his healthcare subsidy to charity.

Democratic Sen. Mark Begich signed up using Alaska's healthcare exchange, thus giving up the subsidy available through the D.C. exchange and assuming a higher monthly premium.

Fellow Democrats up for re-election — including. Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana — also plan to skip the D.C. exchange and enroll in their home-state exchanges.
Begich said he wanted to "have the exact same experience and go through the same steps as other Alaskans when it comes to signing up for healthcare."

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