by Alice Dubenetsky
Leahy, Sanders and Welch Respond to Grassley Provisions
As President Obama grants Congress a pass on the calamitous consequences of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Americans from sea to sea should be questioning their Senators and Representatives about whether they will accept continuing government subsidies to their health care plans (business as usual) or whether they will obey the provisions of the same law to which the rest of America will be subjected and that specifically removed the subsidies for Congress under the Grassley Amendment. The amendment specified that lawmakers and staffers would have to leave the generous federal employee plan and obtain coverage through the new health insurance marketplaces (exchanges).
The Affordable Care Act is also known as Obamacare. It will be interesting to see whether the President and his supporters will disengage from that label as the law rolls out and Americans “find out what’s in it,” ala Nancy Pelosi’s famous nonsensical pronouncement.
The law was passed along strictly partisan lines, with not a single Republican vote. It’s a sweeping, ill-conceived government program that will forever change the way health care is paid for and delivered in the United States.
October 1st is the official start date for the program and as that day approaches, more and more businesses are beginning to panic, resulting in on-going layoffs and cuts to employee hours so employers will not fall prey to expenses and penalties levied through the ACA. Every week brings new reports of businesses cutting hours to avoid the 30-hour full time designation that triggers an employer insurance mandate. Many businesses are now insuring only their employees and dropping family coverage. Hospitals are cutting costs and services, even including the Cleveland Clinic, which recently announced cuts of $300 million, that will involve employee lay-offs, to prepare for the costs of the ACA
Big business and unions, many of whom supported the bill from the beginning, have asked for and gotten exemptions and delays, as the Obama Administration tinkers with what supporters gleefully tout as “The Law Of The Land”. Interestingly, this administration isn’t taxed by the notion that only Congress has the power to change a law once it’s passed. In their usual self-absorbed, protect -the-president-at-all-costs way, they are attempting to mitigate the awful consequences of their actions by handing out special favors to special entities while the rest of the nation watches in dismay as layoffs continue. Many Americans find themselves struggling to figure out how to pay higher premiums in a very bad economy when fuel prices, inflation and taxes are already draining their family budgets. And the cascade of bad news continues, like a mudslide overtaking the U.S. health care system and the economy as a whole.
Now enter Congress, the very same people who, by a completely partisan and uncompromising majority triumphantly passed this travesty into law over the loud protests of millions of Americans who saw this wreck coming before the train even left the station.
Vermont’s Congressional delegation was eager to pass the Affordable Care Act. When, to the consternation of the American people, the Obama administration suddenly granted Congress relief from their law in the form of continued taxpayer contributions to health care premiums for lawmakers and their staff – in violation of the law as passed – we wondered how Senators Leahy and Sanders, and Congressman Welch would handle the situation. So we asked them and we’ll share the written replies for the record.
Their answers demonstrate that there is no resolve make any changes in the subsidies they and their staff currently enjoy, even though they wholeheartedly supported the final version of the ACA that would have eliminated what they are now calling “employer subsidies”. A fine irony can be found in the fact that one of the goals of the socialized health care crowd is to eventually eliminate all “employer-based “ insurance. Their “employers” happen to be the same American people who are all being forced to ride the speeding ACA train straight to disaster.
Luckily for Congress and other federal employees, they will continue to enjoy the benefits of taxpayer largess, unburdened by the consequences of their political ambitions. As usual.
From Senator Leahy:
As a senator, my current health plan options are the same as the options offered to all federal employees. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires that Members of Congress and their personal office staff to be covered by a health plan created by the law. Currently the Department of Health and Human Services is implementing the law as it was passed, which includes establishing health insurance exchanges, or marketplaces, to begin on October 1, 2013. The present proposal is that Members of Congress and their staff will be enrolled in exchanges established under the law.
You asked about the government’s contribution to Members of Congress and their staffs’ health insurance. Congressional members and staff in the exchange are not eligible for premium tax credits, but they will continue to have an employer contribution toward their health insurance premiums. This level of employer contribution is the same as other federal employees receive through the Federal Employee Health Benefits Plan.
From Senator Sanders:
Unfortunately, there been a lot of misinformation for quite a while regarding health insurance for Members of Congress and congressional staff. Prior to the passage of ACA, Members of Congress and their staff chose from various insurance plans offered by the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program, which serves more than 8 million federal and retired workers and their dependents. In other words, Members of Congress and their staff currently receive the same health care benefits, and pay the same premiums and deductibles, as any other federal employee.
However, ACA included a provision that requires members of Congress and their staffs to purchase health insurance from the state-based “health insurance marketplaces” that will be become operational on or before January 1, 2014. Moreover, they will be required to purchase health insurance through the marketplaces in their respective states of residency, rather than continue to receive the same healthcare benefits as other federal employees.
Let me take this opportunity to say that in my view, while ACA is an important step in the right direction, we ultimately need to do better. If we are serious about providing high-quality, affordable health care as a right, not a privilege, the real solution to American’s health care crisis is a single payer system. Until we have that, we will remain the only major nation that does not provide health care for every man, woman and child as a right of citizenship.
From Congressman Welch:
The new federal healthcare law includes a provision that requires all Members of Congress and their staff to participate in the health care exchange created by the law. I oppose any effort to exempt legislators and staff from this law.