Bill would end federal funding for lawmakers’ health coverage

August 27, 2013

A House Republican on Monday proposed a bill that would end federal funding for the health-care premiums of members of Congress, a move that would leave lawmakers fending for themselves after they enter new insurance exchanges forming under Obamacare.

Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.V.) said she will introduce the legislation after Congress returns from a five-week break in September. “As long as Obamacare remains law, members of Congress should not receive exchange subsidies that are not provided to other Americans,” she said in a statement.

Despite Capito’s remarks, some Americans will qualify for federal premium support while participating in the exchanges, depending on income and number of dependents. But those who make upwards of $170,000, like all members of Congress, would find it hard to qualify without more than a half dozen children.

(Harry Hamburg/AP) - Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), center, with other members of Congress.
(Harry Hamburg/AP) – Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), center, with other members of Congress.

An aide from Capito’s office clarified Monday that the bill, known as the No Obamacare Subsidies for Congress Act, would ensure that the lawmakers who voted for the Affordable Care Act are treated the same under the law as other upper-income taxpayers, meaning they would be on their own if they participate in the exchanges.

Republicans have been working on this angle of the healthcare law since 2009, when Sen. Chuck Grassley added an amendment to the legislation forcing members of Congress and their staffers to enter the insurance exchanges — by booting them off their usual federal plan.

Obamacare establishes insurance exchanges for individuals who do not have employer-sponsored coverage, but it does not prevent the insured from keeping their existing plans — unless they are members of Congress or congressional staffers.

The Affordable Care Act doesn’t have much of an effect on the wealthy, who were always left without premium support if they didn’t have employer-sponsored insurance. Capito’s bill simply places members of Congress among the self-insured upper-income earners who already had to cover their healthcare costs entirely on their own.

It’s important to note that Capito’s bill would not prevent congressional staffers from receiving federal premium support. The measure would still allow the government to cover up to 75 percent of the coverage costs for those workers, much like it does with their current Federal Employee Health Benefits program.

Earlier this month, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) held up the confirmation process for President Obama’s nominee for head the Office of Personnel Management until the agency clarified its rules about premium support for legislative employees.

OPM quickly issued draft rules to allow employer contributions for lawmakers and their staffs, but Capito’s bill would exempt members of Congress from that support.

To connect with Josh Hicks, follow his Twitter feed or email josh.hicks@washpost.comFor more federal news, visit The Federal Eye, The Fed Page and Post Politics. E-mail federalworker@washpost.com with news tips and other suggestions.

Josh Hicks covers the federal government and anchors the Federal Eye blog. He reported for newspapers in the Detroit and Seattle suburbs before joining the Post as a contributor to Glenn Kessler’s Fact Checker blog in 2011.
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