Obama Working Behind the Scenes on Latest Pre-ACA Snafu

August 4, 2013
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The Republican amendment to the ACA stopping government contributions to premiums of federal employees is being put to the test this week, as President Obama is reassuring Dem senators that he is working to “resolve the situation”.  At issue here is the amount of fed premium contributions to insurance plans of federal employees — some as high as 75 percent. Until the ACA takes effect, these contributions are part of the Federal Employee Health Benefit Plan, and they affect hundreds of Hill employees.

The Republican amendment to the ACA stopping government contributions to premiums of federal employees is being put to the test this week, as President Obama is reassuring Dem senators that he is working to “resolve the situation”.  At issue here is the amount of fed premium contributions to insurance plans of federal employees — some as high as 75 percent. Until the ACA takes effect, these contributions are part of the Federal Employee Health Benefit Plan, and they affect hundreds of Hill employees. What is not clear is if these payments will continue under the ACA, when beneficiaries are required to obtain coverage, via an exchange or otherwise.

The uncertainty is leading to dozens of lawmakers and aides considering leaving Capitol Hill. It is extraordinarily rare, to say the least, for the president of the United States to get involved in an inside-the-Beltway flap over the payment of health care premiums. Yet the anger over the administration’s inability or unwillingness to resolve this issue is bipartisan and deep. The feared “brain drain” of congressional staffers over rising health-care costs has become a topic of constant conversation on Capitol Hill.

Party leaders in both chambers want OPM to rule that the government can continue to contribute to health insurance premiums for members and staffers. OPM, though, has so far refused to say how it will handle the provision, despite months of lobbying by lawmakers. The controversy has to be resolved before Oct. 1, when members and staffers are slated to enter the exchanges.

It’s another wrinkle working against the White House PR push to get the reform law into the good graces of Americans ahead of implementation. The challenge is in assuring Democrats that these pre-rollout issues will not jeopardize the employment of those who actually do all of the legislative grunt work that produces legislation like this in the first place. Pretty ironic. | LINK