WRITTEN BY CHRISS W. STREET
Democrat Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Republican House Speaker John Boehner have moved negotiations into high gear in efforts to exempt the 535 Congressional members, families and ten thousand staff members from the mandate to comply with joining public insurance exchanges under the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare. With Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services, already granting discretionarily compliance waivers for unions and 1,200 crony corporations, Congress also wants to avoid suffering the pain of what it legislated for the public.
Two years ago, HHS used the law’s “flexibility” clause to allow bureaucrats to exempt certain favored groups with transition “waivers” through 2014. These “carve-outs” caused a huge stir when it was learned that labor unions representing 543,812 workers and private employers with 69,813 employees were secretly granted waivers. Of the total of 1,231 companies who got the heads-up they could apply for carve-outs, only 96 were denied under Sebelius’s “flexible” authority.
Congress and its staff currently enjoy full premium coverage, and a choice between ten elite national preferred provider doctor and hospital networks, and several HMOs. Lawmakers also have no-copay access to federally-owned medical facilities, their own pharmacy, and a team of doctors and medical staff that stand by at their chambers.
Since the Republicans gained control of the House in 2010, they have cut Congressional staff pay and the expense accounts for individual Congressmen. Under Obamacare, Congress and staff are required to enter public healthcare exchanges with their insurance premiums subsidized by their employer, the U.S. taxpayer. But lawmakers fear that they will be hit with thousands of dollars of higher co-pay costs.
Currently the U.S. Office of Personnel Management spends $7000 in insurance premium for each of the 30% of Congressional staff that are young and in entry-level positions that earn an average of $25,000 per year. Under Obamacare’s bazaar formula payment scheme, 75% of healthcare annual premiums will be picked up by the employer; employees would pay a percentage of their annual income and be eligible for government “subsidy” payments according to family size and income level in relationship to the Federal Poverty Level (FPL).
Based on the 2014 estimate of the Federal Poverty Level of $11,600, the annual insurance premium cost paid for by a one-person household for healthcare would be:
Income versus Federal Poverty Level
Average Individual Payment
Consequently, a $25,000 Congressional staffer would be making 200-250% of the Federal Poverty Level. For the annual insurance premium the federal government as the employer would pay $5200 (75% of premium cost) and the individual as the employee would start paying about $1800 (7.2% of income) of the annual insurance premium cost. Under this example, the federal government saves 25% of the annual healthcare insurance premium payment by shifting the cost onto the Congressional staff person. Furthermore, the staff employee’s income is high enough that the U.S. taxpayer does not have to subsidize the individual’s annual premium payment.
In 2009, then Democrat Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi stood at the podium in Congress in support of Obamacare and classically said: “We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it.” At the time, Congressional lliberals claimed Obamacare would save America money. They did not plan on that Obamacare savings coming out of the hide of their members and staff from new insurance payments and the loss of their privileged no-copay access to federally-owned medical facilities and prescription drugs. It seems now that Congress has found out what is in Obamacare, they do not like it at all.
CHRISS STREET & PAUL PRESTON
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