Obamacare Honeymoon Over for Capitol Hill Staffers
Remember how Obamacare was going to lower premiums, make health care and health insurance more affordable, etc. etc.? Well, it looks like Capitol Hill doesn’t believe its own hype:
Dozens of lawmakers and aides are so afraid that their health insurance premiums will skyrocket next year thanks to Obamacare that they are thinking about retiring early or just quitting.
The fear: Government-subsidized premiums will disappear at the end of the year under a provision in the health care law that nudges aides and lawmakers onto the government health care exchanges, which could make their benefits exorbitantly expensive.
Democratic and Republican leaders are taking the issue seriously, but first they need more specifics from the Office of Personnel Management on how the new rule should take effect — a decision that Capitol Hill sources expect by fall, at the latest. The administration has clammed up in advance of a ruling, sources on both sides of the aisle said.
If the issue isn’t resolved, and massive numbers of lawmakers and aides bolt, many on Capitol Hill fear it could lead to a brain drain just as Congress tackles a slew of weighty issues — like fights over the Tax Code and immigration reform.
Activists can thank Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) for this change in the attitudes on the Hill:
The Affordable Care Act — signed into law in 2010 — contained a provision known as the Grassley Amendment, which said the government can only offer members of Congress and their staff plans that are “created” in the bill or “offered through an exchange” — unless the bill is amended.
Currently, aides and lawmakers receive their health care under the generous Federal Employee Health Benefits Program. The government subsidizes upward of 75 percent of the premiums for the health insurance plans. In 2014, most Capitol Hill aides and lawmakers are expected to be put onto the exchanges, and there has been no guidance whether the government will subsidize those premiums. This is expected to cause a steep spike in health insurance costs.
The consequences of this could be significant for those who want to see Washington’s policies change. On the negative side, most Capitol Hill staffers are low-level employees who write constituent letters, answer phone calls, and the like, but there are also many long-time staffers who legitimately want to see tax reform, spending cuts, and other necessary changes to public policy. Politico describes this as a “brain drain.” Essentially, Politico is pointing out the reality of having experienced staffers who truly want good policy ditching Capitol Hill and being replaced by less experienced, less knowledgeable staffers. This could very reduce chances of policy changes as increasing staffer turnover rates reduce efficiency.
On the plus side, if Members of Congress begin retiring, perhaps the nation will see more lawmakers elected actually focus on stopping our aggressively expansive government.
No matter the consequences, though, the fact still remains that Democrats on Capitol Hill can no longer claim Obamacare is good for the country – not when they are abandoning their jobs because of it.