I live in Louisiana and recently sent a letter to Senator Mary Landrieu asking her to reconsider her position on Obamacare. Below is her first reply:
I understand your frustration with reports that Members of Congress and their staff are receiving an “exemption or “special subsidy” through the Affordable Care Act (ACA). I hope I can shed some light on the Office of Personnel and Management’s (OPM) recent proposed rule regarding health insurance coverage for Members of Congress and their staff.
As you may know, the Affordable Care Act establishes new health insurance marketplaces called exchanges in every state where individuals without employer coverage and small businesses can shop for comprehensive, affordable health insurance beginning October 1, 2013. Members of Congress and their staff, who are employed by the federal government, are explicitly required to participate in the marketplace and will have the same choices offered to individuals and small businesses. This was a provision of the ACA that I voted for. As a result, on January 1, 2014, my staff and I will be covered by health insurance we obtain through the ACA’s marketplace.
The proposed rule you mentioned in your correspondence only clarified that the federal government, as an employer, can continue to make an employer contribution toward the cost of premiums. This means Members of Congress and their staff will continue to be responsible for paying their premiums in excess of the government’s share. For decades, many other public and private employers, including the State of Louisiana, have offered employee contributions as a benefit to attract and retain quality employees. In fact, the State of Louisiana’s employer contribution is approximately 75 percent for an individual and 65 percent for a family, which is in line with the federal government’s contribution, which is between 72 and 75 percent. In addition, in the private sector, for companies that employ more than 200 people, the national average for employer contributions is 83 percent for an individual and 78 percent for a family. This recent ruling by the Office of Personnel Management clarified that the federal government can participate in the marketplaces just like other employers that choose to obtain group coverage.
I hope I have cleared up that what Senator Vitter and others have mischaracterized as a “subsidy” or “exemption” is actually a continuation of the standard employer contribution benefit paid to U.S. government employees. The ACA will provide all Americans access to greater choice of higher quality health insurance, which will be there when you need it and include consumer protections such as no denials for pre-existing conditions, no lifetime or annual caps on coverage, and preventive care without out-of-pocket costs. That is why I voted for it and will continue to work to improve our health care system.
With kindest regards, I am
United States Senator
I then contacted Senator David Vitter and sent a copy of Senator Landrieu’s reply to my request. Below is what Senator Vitter replied to me:
Thank you for contacting my office regarding the Washington exemption from Obamacare and Senator Landrieu’s response letter to you stating unequivocally that no such special treatment for Congress exists.
Senator Landrieu is trying to mislead you, to put it kindly. Others might say she is lying. As you have no doubt read, President Obama recently issued a special rule for Congress only. Under it, members of Congress and congressional staff will get a special subsidy to purchase health insurance on the Obamacare Exchange unavailable to every other American at similar income levels. That special subsidy is worth approximately $11,000 per family.
This is completely contrary to the letter and intent of the statutory language of Obamacare, which makes no provision for any special congressional subsidy. No where in the law or in the administration’s implementing regulations, does it allow private employers to contribute to their workers’ insurance on Obamacare’s individual exchange. In fact, the Treasury Department released guidance this week warning employers all of the ways they could not help their employees purchase insurance of the Obamacare exchange.
To block this illegal rule, I’m fighting for my “No Washington Exemption From Obamacare” bill. I feel strongly that the sooner Washington lives by the same provisions that it imposes on all other Americans – including millions who are being forced to go to the Exchange against their will – the sooner Washington will start fixing what is so obviously broken. I hope this clears up any confusion.
Now, for my question to you dear reader…which Senator is telling the whole truth and which is not?
Also, since this correspondence between me and the Senators, Senator Landrieu seems to have had a change of heart regarding Obamacare and has now introduced a bill on the Senate floor to allow Americans to keep their current insurance even if it does not meet the new standards. I assume that Ms. Landrieu either did not read the Affordable Care Act when she voted for it (and hence when she was telling everyone that Americans could keep their existing insurance policies she was just ignorant of what is in the bill), or she did not understand the bill and just voted for it to be a good Democrat, or she did know that people would lose their existing insurance and lied anyway thinking that she could just get away with it. In any of these cases, shame on her.