Bill would force federal employees onto insurance exchanges

mediumA new Republican proposal would push federal workers off their employer-sponsored health plan and onto the insurance exchanges being established under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, introduced the bill on Friday, following rumors that Democrats were trying to exempt members of Congress and their staffs from a provision in current law that requires them to enroll in the exchanges in 2014.

Camp’s measure would extend that policy to all federal workers except active duty military and postal workers. Most employees affected by the legislation are enrolled in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program.

“If the ObamaCare exchanges are good enough for the hardworking Americans and small businesses the law claims to help, then they should be good enough for the president, vice president, Congress and federal employees,” said Camp spokeswoman Sarah Swinehart.

The Affordable Care Act establishes insurance exchanges for people whose employers do not provide coverage.

The requirement for members of Congress and their staffs to enroll in exchanges came about as lawmakers were debating the health care overhaul four years ago. Republicans at the time insisted that members of Congress, the president and their staffs should have to take part in the exchanges.

Democrats have denied that they had any plan to exempt lawmakers and their staffs from the requirement.

Lawmakers in recent weeks have questioned whether the exchange provision prohibits the government from paying a portion of premiums as it does now for members of Congress and their staffs. They’re concerned that some workers could not afford the full cost of coverage on their own.

Lawmakers have also questioned whether congressional staffers would lose the retirement health benefits they qualify for after working for the government for 20 years.

The Office of Personnel Management, which oversees the federal health benefits program, has not indicated when it will issue an interpretation of the law as it relates to those issues.

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