GOP senators want to reverse healthcare rule for congressional staff

Two Republican senators say they’ll introduce legislation to reverse the Obama administration’s rule change allowing the federal government to contribute to Capitol Hill employee health insurance premiums.

Republicans have argued the rule change amounts to a “bailout” from ObamaCare for a favored congressional class.

Sens. David Vitter (La.) and Mike Enzi (Wyo.) said they would offer legislation in September to reverse and modify the rule change.

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“If Obamacare is good enough for the American people, it should be good enough for Congress, the president and vice president, and other policy makers in Washington,” Enzi said in a joint statement. ObamaCare requires members of Congress and their staffs to sign up for the health insurance exchanges created by the law. The idea was to ensure that lawmakers and their staffs would be subject to ObamaCare.

The federal government, like many large-scale employees, now subsidizes premium costs for congressional employees. In the government’s case, the subsidy can amount to as much as 75 percent of the premium’s cost.

The ObamaCare law was silent on whether these subsidies could continue, but under a rule issued in August by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), the federal government could continue to offer subsidies for premiums to lawmakers and congressional staff.

The rule allows each member of Congress to determine whether his or her staffers will get help from the government to cover their premiums.

Vitter and Enzi said their bill would change the law so that lawmakers would not have this authority. As a result, staff would have to buy insurance on their own, without help from their employers.

It would also go further by making the president, vice president and political appointees also ineligible for the Federal Employees Health Benefits Plan. Those officials would be required to purchase their own insurance without taxpayer dollars.

“These recent maneuverings inside the Beltway are precisely why the American people rightly despise Congress,” Vitter said. “Our legislation gets right to the core of the OPM “fix” for Washington.”

Rep. Ron DeSantis, (R-Fla.) announced similar legislation yesterday for the House to take up.

Those who support the rule change argue it is appropriate for the federal government to continue to offer premium support to employees, just as many other large employers are expected do under ObamaCare.