“The White House is once again re-writing the law unilaterally.”
Here, in Review & Outlook, The Wall Street Journal writes that President Obama is again planning to rewrite the law without Congress to achieve what it wants.
Whether it was intentional or not, the fairest reading of the statute as written is that if Democrats thought somebody earning $174,000 didn’t deserve an exchange subsidy, then this person doesn’t get a subsidy merely because he happens to work in Congress.
But the statute means that about 11,000 Members and Congressional staff will lose the generous coverage they now have as part of the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP). Instead they will get the lower-quality, low-choice “Medicaid Plus” of the exchanges. The Members—annual salary: $174,000—and their better paid aides also wouldn’t qualify for ObamaCare subsidies. That means they could be exposed to thousands of dollars a year in out-of-pocket insurance costs.
The result was a full wig out on Capitol Hill, with Members of both parties fretting about “brain drain” as staff face higher health-care costs. Democrats in particular begged the White House for help, claiming the Reid language was merely an unintentional mistake. President Obama told Democrats in a closed-door meeting last week that he would personally moonlight as HR manager and resolve the issue.
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.
How OPM will pull this off is worth watching. Is OPM simply going to cut checks, akin to “cashing out” fringe benefits and increasing wages? Or will OPM cover 75% of the cost of the ObamaCare plan the worker chooses—which could well be costlier than what the feds now contribute via current FEHBP plans? In any case the carve-out for Congress creates a two-tier exchange system, one for the great unwashed and another for the politically connected.