One of the unspoken complaints about Obamacare (in addition to it soaking up all and then some of the $380/year in low gas price "savings" as a result of the oil plunge) is that if it was so good for the general population, then why are most Congressional staffers exempt from its provisions? That is about to change after Senate Republican staffers will be required to obtain health insurance through ObamaCare's exchanges under a rule passed Wednesday by the GOP Conference.
According to Politico, the proposal from Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) means that Senate Republicans will designate their staff as "official," moving them automatically onto the marketplaces.
A loophole used in both chambers allows lawmakers to designate staff as "unofficial" or "official staff," which permits them to keep their insurance coverage under the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program.
"Republican senators made a strong, principled statement today in passing my resolution," Vitter said in a statement. "Washington should have to live under ObamaCare just like everybody else until we repeal it. And we won't be complicit in Obama's illegal rule designed to protect Washington insiders."
Vitter is an outspoken critic of some lawmakers' decision to keep their staff off the marketplaces.
He also opposes the employer subsidy for insurance given to lawmakers and staff by the government, arguing it gives Congress an unfair advantage. The question of whether staffers will still receive financial help to pay for their coverage was not addressed in Wednesday's resolution.
The Republican policy applies to all staff regardless of whether they work in a personal, committee or leadership office. Cloakroom and other aides are also included.
And with Republicans jumping all in on Obamacare, now it is the Democrats turn:
The GOP Conference challenged Senate Democrats to adopt a similar policy and not allow their aides to remain on the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program.
Why would anyone not want to jump on the Obamacare bandwagon? " It's a tricky issue for lawmakers who risk alienating staff by pushing them off the popular federal employee health plan. The debate goes back to before ObamaCare's passage."
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) succeeded in including language in the law that requires lawmakers and staff to obtain health insurance on the exchanges.
A wave of controversy then hit in the summer of 2013 after lawmakers pressured the administration to continue providing an employer subsidy for Congress's medical coverage.
Without a contribution toward premiums, proponents argued, the cost of health insurance would rise substantially for aides and cause a mass exodus to the private sector.
The administration responded with regulations allowing lawmakers and staff on the exchanges to continue to receive an employer subsidy. The contribution is distinct from premium tax credits available to eligible exchange enrollees. Staffers do not qualify for those subsidies.
Vitter's conclusion at the time was actually spot on: "These recent maneuverings inside the Beltway are precisely why the American people rightly despise Congress," he said at the time. "Perhaps if White House appointees and Congress have to live under these same ObamaCare rules, things would be changed quickly for the better."
Well, now Congress and White House appointees can. And they can even cover some of their surging healthcare premiums in 2015 with all those whopping $380 in dollars they will save at the gas station. Assuming, of course, that taxpayers didn't pay for that as well.
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Livio S. Nespoli has been a broker, registered investment advisor, and financial publisher since 1985.