Monday, August 5, 2013

President Obama Gives Congress a Deal It Can’t Refuse
What’s good enough for thee, is not good enough for me.
When Congress passed the Affordable Care Act in 2010, its members had not read the 2700 page document. In the immortal words of Nancy Pelosi, “We’ll have to pass it to find out what’s in it.”
If Congress had read it, they might have noticed members of Congress were obligated to get coverage through the ACA instead of the more generous Federal Employee Health Benefit Plan (FEHBP). The FEHBP subsidizes 75% of premiums. Congress didn’t understand what they were doing for themselves, much less to others.
When Congress learned their members (salary $174,000) and staff (11,000 of them with salaries in $75,000 to $100,000 range) would have to join Obamacare, panic erupted. Obamacare would require individuals to pay $5000 for individuals and $11,000 for families. There must have been a mistake. Congress was appalled. It claimed there would be a “brain drain,”with their staffs jumping the Good Ship "Government," to enter the private sector.
Surely a special deal could be made for the privileged few. This was Washington, D.C, where wheeling and dealing is the norm, where some were more equal than others. Congress begged for the President to intervene. He did. He persuaded the Office of Personnel Management to give Congress a special deal. They would have to enroll in Obamacare, but they would continue to receive FEHBP subsidies.
Here is the take of the Wall Street Journal, a foe of Obamacare:
“To adapt H.L. Mencken, nobody ever went broke underestimating the cynicism and self-dealing of the American political class. Witness their ad-libbed decision, at the 11th hour and on the basis of no legal authority, to create a special exemption for themselves from the ObamaCare health coverage that everybody else is mandated to buy.”
“The Affordable Care Act requires Members of Congress and their staffs to participate in its insurance exchanges, in order to gain first-hand experience with what they're about to impose on their constituents. Harry Truman enrolled as the first Medicare beneficiary in 1965, and why shouldn't the Members live under the same laws they pass for the rest of the country?”
“And now the White House is suspending the law to create a double standard. The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) that runs federal benefits will release regulatory details this week, but leaks to the press suggest that Congress will receive extra payments based on the FEHBP defined-contribution formula, which covers about 75% of the cost of the average insurance plan. For 2013, that's about $4,900 for individuals and $10,000 for families.
According to the Obamacare-friendly New York Times, Democratic Congress persons were pleased the deal:
“The House Democratic leader, Nancy Pelosi of California, welcomed the new arrangement, worked out by the White House and the United States Office of Personnel Management, under pressure from Congress. ‘Members of Congress and their staffs must enroll in health marketplaces, as the Affordable Care Act requires,’ Ms. Pelosi said. "
{Lawmakers feared that they might lose not only the federal contributions, but also many staff members, who might leave Capitol Hill in search of other jobs."

"The situation of lawmakers and their aides isunusual (italics are mine.) The exchanges will generally not be open next year to people who work for large employers other than the federal government. And for people other than members of Congress and certain aides, use of the exchanges will be entirely voluntary. “
Waivers and exemptions for Obama allies are the modus operandi for Obamacare. In political circles, this is known as “soothing “ or “smoothing”the path for Obamacare implementation. It is also called “wheeling and dealing,” looking out for number one, going for a political fix, unilaterally changing the law, and compromising to achieve political ends.

Tweet: President Obama has negotiated a special deal for Congress and staff: they will join Obamacare but still get more generous FEHBP subsidies

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