That Congress is looking for an exemption from the Affordable Care Act requirement that they and their staff will have to use the new exchanges is all about money. Basically the entire concern is that because of the way the law was drafted, Congress may no longer be able to cover some of the costs for their staffers’ insurance premiums if they buy on the new Obamacare exchanges. This would force the staffers to buy insurance at full price.
Personally, I consider this scenario a wonderful outcome because it would force Congress and their staff to actually live according to the questioned principles they used to justify the law.
Making Congress and their staffers pay the full cost of their insurance is fine with me because that is how the law will treat millions of middle class families. All members of Congress and most staffers will have salaries high enough they would not qualify for subsidies on the exchanges. If Congress is going to make regular people with similar salaries buy insurance out-of-pocket than that should be good enough for Congressional aides.
I also have no problem with the law forcing Congressional staffers to lose their relatively good insurance because that is a long term goal of the law for everyone. The excise tax on “Cadillac coverage” was designed to stop employers from providing good insurance, covering a large share of your premium, and/or getting them to drop offering coverage altogether. What might happen to Congress is very similar to what Congress intended to happen to others.
Finally, if Congress is worried their staffers can’t afford to buy insurance out-of-pocket they can just use the money Congress would have spent on their premium and raise their salaries by the corresponding amount. The financing of the law was based on the theory that a dollar in benefits is exactly the same as a dollar in salary. The theory, put forward by Obama’s economists, advisers and the Joint Tax Committee is that if you force companies to offer their employees worse insurance, they will increase their wages by an equal amount. This sounds like a perfect opportunity to put the theory to the test.
I would love to see Congress and their staff all forced to buy private insurance at full price. I can’t think of anything more likely to get Congress to question the wisdom of trying to use free market magic to fix health insurance.
Photo by Thomas Hawk under Creative Commons license