Across the country, people are worried health reform will raise the costs of their coverage. Certain taxpayers in Florida, Ohio, and California could see premiums rise, the Milliman consultancy says.
But because they had to first pass the law to find out what was in it, Congress and their staffs panicked and quickly got the Administration to alter the law when they didn’t like what they found.
The new law forced Congress and their staffers to buy coverage in the new state exchanges, but without the new tax credits and without the generous 75% taxpayer-funded subsidy they already get for current coverage. Yet the Administration reinstated that 75% subsidy, which now will partially insulate Capitol Hill from the degree to which health reform drives up the cost of insurance for everyone else.
The average salary House staffers get comes to around $58,000 a year. But no ordinary American at that income level would be allowed to get any tax credits on the health exchanges, much less one now worth an estimated $5,000 for an individual Congressional staffer or $10,000 for a family under the new rule for Congress only, GOP analysts estimate.
Here’s how it works. Say 55-year-old Senator Wiggles earns about $174,000 a year, and selects an average-priced silver HMO plan in a state health exchange. Sen. Wiggles will receive nearly $4,000 in subsidies from the government toward his annual premiums and pay $1,320 out of pocket for coverage due to the federal subsidy, estimates Bryan Murphy, FOX News analyst. A regular taxpayer earning the same salary who doesn’t get coverage at work and who is not a Congressional staffer would have to pay the full $5,320 for coverage from the state exchange, because they wouldn’t qualify for tax credits.
Say the average estimated compensation for a 40-year old House legislative director is $85,910. Murphy says he’s eligible for an average-priced silver HMO plan in an exchange and will get about $1,660 from taxpayers towards his coverage, but will only have to pay out of pocket $550. A comparable taxpayer would have to pay the full $2,210 in annual premiums.
What GOP Congressmen tried to do in writing the health reform law was to force Congress to eat its own cooking by requiring them to enroll in the state exchanges. That attempt, though, ran counter to President Barack Obama’s statement that individuals will be able to keep the plans they are in. The new law does not mandate other Americans to join the exchanges.
Moreover, members of Congress get to pick and choose exactly who among the 20,000 or so Capitol Hill workers will have to join the exchanges, notes FOX News analyst Mark Rigby. That raises DC wheeling and dealing to an art form. Some members of Congress now plan to introduce legislation to reverse this “self-dealing.” It's unclear whether any bills would address another irony: Workers at the chief enforcers of the law, the IRS and HHS, won’t be required to join ObamaCare’s exchanges, notes Rigby.
Elizabeth MacDonald joined FOX Business Network (FBN) as stocks editor in September 2007.
Follow Elizabeth MacDonald on Twitter @LizMacDonaldFOX.