On Oct. 30, I made the assumption Congress – since they are on an employer-based plan – would not have to sign up on an Obamacare website because of the employer mandate delay. I was incorrect, they do have to sign up online for a plan now, but we now know why they are not complaining about the process or the prices.
Members of Congress and their staff do have to sign up at the small business marketplace of D.C. Health Link. But they don’t have to do it. This New York Times piece reads as though they have personal, on-site help from professional navigators dedicated to help them.
Members of Congress like to boast that they will have the same health care enrollment experience as constituents struggling with the balky federal website, because the law they wrote forced lawmakers to get coverage from the new insurance exchanges.
That is true. As long as their constituents have access to “in-person support sessions” like the ones being conducted at the Capitol and congressional office buildings by the local exchange and four major insurers. Or can log on to a special Blue Cross and Blue Shield website for members of Congress and use a special toll-free telephone number — a “dedicated congressional health insurance plan assistance line.”
But there is more.
And then there is the fact that lawmakers have a larger menu of “gold plan” insurance choices than most of their constituents have back home. …
It is much easier for members of Congress and their aides to see and compare their options on websites run by the Senate, the House and the local exchange.
Lawmakers can select from 112 options offered in the “gold tier” of the District of Columbia exchange, far more than are available to most of their constituents.
As noted before, the federal government – as their employer – is paying up to 75 percent of the premiums. This is similar to other federal employees and many private businesses pay about the same percentage.
Lawmakers and their aides are not eligible for tax credit subsidies, but the government pays up to 75 percent of their premiums, contributing a maximum of $5,114 a year for individual coverage and $11,378 for family coverage. The government contribution is based on the same formula used for most other federal employees.
Those are numbers I have not seen before. And here’s mention of a waiver for staffers…
One part of the new insurance program is veiled in secrecy. Lawmakers may allow some or all of their employees to keep their current insurance by declaring that they do not work in the “official office” of a member of Congress.
The Times mentions some are unhappy about the premium costs and the changes, but they point out one staffer reduced her monthly premium from $120 to $60 per month. They even used a picture of Jacqueline Thomas, an employee of Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) who saved the money at the top of their article.
The details are important. Thomas says she will have “comparable coverage” but you have to wonder if a plan at that price was available before? What is the deductible? Co-pays? Is her general practitioner in the new network or does that not matter to Thomas? Of course, just referencing one anecdote only referencing a drop in premiums is not good reporting, but it makes a really convenient sound bite for supporters of Obamacare.