Obamacare in Congress: A Different Drug for the Same Disease

Washington DC

Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/patrick_nouhailler/

On Monday night, Congressional employees were supposed to hit the deadline for signing up for health care on the exchanges. However, since technical problems persist, causing hiccups in the website, administrators extended the deadline by one week, granting extra time to sign up.

“Our employees face a deadline of midnight tonight, and if through no fault of their own they’re unable to sign up, then they’re being allowed to follow through on their signing up,” Dan Weiser, spokesperson for the chief administrative officer of the House told CNN. Weiser does not believe it would have been fair to penalize employees, and that this did not amount to preferential treatment.

It isn’t only the staffers who have been given an Obamacare headache, but the lawmakers as well. Representative Joe Garcia (D-Fla.) told Politico the process “has been less than perfect.” He added that, “It takes a long time, dropped off, get asked to call back.” Of the extension, Weiser added that this was not “anything special” but “just the right thing to do.” Whether the extension is justified or not, Congress is receiving other perks when it comes to signing up for health care.

The New York Times reported that “in-person support sessions” have been conducted on Capitol Hill by area health insurance providers. Blue Cross and Blue Shield established a special website and toll-free number for Congressional workers. The lawmakers themselves allegedly have access to more gold-tier plans than average Americans do, and the federal government is assisting with payments.

Aides and Congresspeople are not eligible for government subsidies, but the government can pay up to 75 percent of their costs. To ensure the government support continued into next year, plans needed to be selected by December 9, the deadline which has been pushed back one week.

The most controversial perk of all may be that lawmakers can keep their staff members off the exchanges. If a member declares that their employees are not part of the “official office” they can remain in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program. Congressman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) are two lawmakers who have done this.

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