Oops, Congress May Not Have Excluded Itself from Health Care Reform
Robert Pear reports in the New York Times, of all places.
The law promises that people can keep coverage they like, largely unchanged. For members of Congress and their aides, the federal employees health program offers much to like. But, the [Congressional Research Service] report says, the men and women who wrote the law may find that the guarantee of stability does not apply to them.
“It is unclear whether members of Congress and Congressional staff who are currently participating in F.E.H.B.P. may be able to retain this coverage,” the research service said in an 8,100-word memorandum.
And even if current members of Congress can stay in the popular program for federal employees, that option will probably not be available to newly elected lawmakers, the report says.
The law apparently bars members of Congress from the federal employees health program, on the assumption that lawmakers should join many of their constituents in getting coverage through new state-based markets known as insurance exchanges.
But the research service found that this provision was written in an imprecise, confusing way, so it is not clear when it takes effect.
The new exchanges do not have to be in operation until 2014. But because of a possible “drafting error,” the report says, Congress did not specify an effective date for the section excluding lawmakers from the existing program.
These are not the only complications to Congressional health care coverage in the brave new world of health care reform that the Congressional Research Service uncovered.
Two questions pose themselves. Pear asks the first.
If they did not know exactly what they were doing to themselves, did lawmakers who wrote and passed the bill fully grasp the details of how it would influence the lives of other Americans?
Well, Speaker Pelosi did say that Congress had to pass health care reform so that we could find out what’s in it. Who would have guessed it was going to be a surprise for Congress as well?
Secondly, if health care reform is as wonderful as advertised, why does Congress want to exempt itself from it? And please don’t trot out the line that “Everyone will get to choose their health care plan, just like Congress does now!” This is nonsense. After health care reform goes fully into effect and all health insurance carriers have declared Chapter 7, the great unwashed will be getting their medical care from one source only – the American NHS – while the number of concierge doctors in the DC area will blossom to serve the new health care patrician class on Capital Hill.
No? The question stands, then: why does Congress wish to exempt itself from one of the most far-reaching laws it has ever passed?