News Column

GOP Laments Obamacare 'Exemption' for Congress

Sept 5, 2013

Republicans, including U.S. Rep. Steve Daines of Montana, are blasting the White House for supporting an "Obamacare" rule change that says the federal government can continue paying a share of health-coverage costs for Congress and its staff.

Daines said recently the rule is a "special exemption" from the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or Obamacare, for members of Congress and their staff.

"It is absolutely unacceptable for Washington to impose new burdens and costs upon the American people, and then carve out special loopholes for itself," he said in a statement. "Until this failed law is fully repealed, Washington must live by the same rules that have been forced upon the American people."

Yet supporters of the rule, issued last month, said it merely allows the federal government, as a large employer, to keep paying the approximate 70 percent share of employees' health coverage that it does now.

"It makes sense for members of Congress and their staff to buy their health insurance in the new marketplace," said Andrea Helling, a spokesman for Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont. "It also makes sense for Congress to continue to provide the existing employer support for employee health insurance premiums, and that's what OPM's ruling will allow."

OPM is the Office of Personnel Management, which manages the civil service for the federal government, including overseeing federal employees' health insurance and retirement benefits programs.

Next year, members of Congress and their staff are required to abandon their current group coverage through the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program and buy coverage on the Obamacare health-insurance marketplaces.

Daines said he's focused on fighting to overturn the OPM rule and "defunding, delaying and repealing Obamacare, so that none of its provisions go into effect."

Tester and Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., who also buy health coverage through the FEHBP, said they would be shopping for health insurance on the Internet marketplace next year and deciding what policy is best for them.

(c)2013 The Montana Standard (Butte, Mont.)

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Source: Copyright Montana Standard (Butte) 2013

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