Congressional Staff May Be Losing Their Health Insurance

Here is a recent post from my co-worker, Mark Harkins, that lays out how law was passed that may cause Members of Congress and their staff to absorb the entire cost of their health insurance on January 1, 2014. This amendment started in the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee which was tasked with drafting health care reform legislation — and made its way through the floor and across the president’s desk.

It’s a change that is just recently beginning to be reported. Take a look here, or read the whole article:

During a Communicating and Working with Congress seminar Ken Gold and I were teaching last week, I brought to the attention of the class the prospect that congressional staff may seem a little more ornery than normal due to the fact that they may be losing their government health insurance. While many of the Congressional Fellows had heard some inkling about this, almost none of the others were aware ‑ but all were horrified by the details.

Don’t worry too much, only a small segment of staff ­‑ 540 Members of Congress (and delegates) along with their personal office staff ‑ will be affected. But, if the current law is not changed, it is true that those toiling on Capitol Hill and in District Offices around the country will only be able to obtain health care coverage from programs created in the Affordable Care Act, or the currently non-existent Exchanges. In addition, unlike EVERY OTHER federal government employee, they may have to pay 100% of the premium with after-tax income.

This is not new. There are press reports going back to April of 2010 about the so-called Grassley amendment which takes Members and their staff out of the OPM system and consequently, out of the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP). But it is only recently that the full implications of the law are starting to be reported.

When I dug a little deeper to understand what happened, I was interested in how a political gotcha amendment turned into a punish congressional personal office staff amendment. The original Grassley amendment (amendment O) as passed by the Senate Finance Committee was intended to require any employer contribution on behalf of ALL congressional staff go directly to insurers in the Exchanges. Maybe not the best to be out of FEHBP but congressional staff would still have the subsidy from OPM and would only have to pay approximately 28% of the premium with pre-tax dollars.

However, Finance was not the only Senate committee tasked with writing health care reform legislation in the Senate; the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee had a say as well. During HELP’s consideration a few months earlier, Sen. Coburn won support for a similar provision by a vote of 12-11 (with three Democrats voting in favor). After winning the vote, Sen. Coburn acknowledged (355:30-364:00) he expected his amendment to be dropped in conference; a conference that never happened. more>>

Mark Harkins is a Senior Fellow at the Government Affairs Institute.

Bio: Mark Harkins
E-mail: [email protected]
Twitter: @mbh1165

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Henry Brown

Not anything new! Don’t believe that congressional staff have same pay scale as federal employees, Don’t believe that they have any or at the very least minimal job protection…

Not surprised that Republican Senator Coburn got his staff, and the rest of congressional staff, got in the middle by his playing political games…