A number of Congressmen are out there in media land saying that the new health reform bill requires that Congress must enroll in the new health insurance exchanges.
Rep. John Fleming (D-LA) and Sen. Thomas Carper (D-Del.) told viewers of Varney & Co. just that.
They are incorrect, as well intentioned as they may be. Congressmen do not have to enroll in the new insurance exchange, the new law says. Only if they still want the rich, taxpayer-paid for benefits they get now.
It's unfortunate that taxpayers like you and I have to read the bill that they wrote, but obviously don't understand, to stop the fastballs they are trying to whip by you.
A bill many in Congress may not have read, despite the fact the bill gives the IRS more powers to enforce it (See EMac blog, "IRS Gains Broader Powers Under Health Reform").
The new health reform bill--specifically section 1312 subsection D, see below--does not specify “that members of Congress will be required to be in the same [insurance] exchange as every other American,” as Rep. Fleming told Varney & Co. viewers.
Congressmen do not have to enroll in the new insurance exchanges, the new law says. The bill does not mandate that anyone in this country enroll in the new exchanges--it only mandates that you must buy insurance, notes Fox News analyst James Farrell.
Again, see relevant statutes from the bill below.
We told you here at Fox Business that Congress does not have to enroll in its own insurance exchanges (See EMac blog, "Congress Won't Eat Its Own Cooking").
And we warned you back in January that the health reform bill may violate the US Constitution's interstate commerce clause, after which more than a dozen state attorneys general are now planning to mount legal challenges against the bill on that premise (See EMac blog, "Is Health Reform Unconstitutional?")
No small irony that Congress justified its power to enact such reform under the interstate commerce clause, even though it won't let taxpayers buy insurance across state lines through the new insurance exchanges)
Again, if Congress wants to continue with the rich government plans largely paid for by US taxpayers, then they have to buy them through the new insurance exchanges.
The bill says Congress's very nice health plans must be offered to other taxpayers via the new health insurance exchanges.
Congress's plans must be “enrolled” in the exchanges, so you and I can buy them. Congressmen themselves do not have to be enrolled.
I'm going to repeat this again so everyone, including those in DC, gets it.
The way it works in government now, the Office of Personnel Management approves the plans that can be offered to federal employees, including Congressmen.
Congress's health plans are now being offered through the exchange so other taxpayers will also be able to enroll in them, under the new reform bill.
In order for a given plan to be available to Congressmen – let's say the Blue Cross / Blue Shield Standard PPO – the Blue Cross / Blue Shield Standard PPO must be a plan that is available through the exchange, the bill says.
However, it looks like for now that taxpayers won't fund the same proportion of the Congressional-type insurance plans they get to buy in the insurance exchanges.
Taxpayers pay for on average two-thirds of the cost of Congress's plans, as elected officials now get. Instead, it's more like 56% on average, the Congressional Budget Office says.
SEC. 1312. CONSUMER CHOICE.
(d) EMPOWERING CONSUMER CHOICE.—
(1) CONTINUED OPERATION OF MARKET OUTSIDE
EXCHANGES.—Nothing in this title shall be construed to prohibit—
(A) a health insurance issuer from offering outside
of an Exchange a health plan to a qualified individual
or qualified employer; and
(B) a qualified individual from enrolling in, or a qualified
employer from selecting for its employees, a health
plan offered outside of an Exchange.
(2) CONTINUED OPERATION OF STATE BENEFIT REQUIREMENTS.—
Nothing in this title shall be construed to terminate,
abridge, or limit the operation of any requirement under State
law with respect to any policy or plan that is offered outside
of an Exchange to offer benefits.
(3) VOLUNTARY NATURE OF AN EXCHANGE.—
(A) CHOICE TO ENROLL OR NOT TO ENROLL.—Nothing
in this title shall be construed to restrict the choice of a
qualified individual to enroll or not to enroll in a qualified
health plan or to participate in an Exchange.
(B) PROHIBITION AGAINST COMPELLED ENROLLMENT.—
Nothing in this title shall be construed to compel an individual
to enroll in a qualified health plan or to participate
in an Exchange.
(C) INDIVIDUALS ALLOWED TO ENROLL IN ANY PLAN.—
A qualified individual may enroll in any qualified health
plan, except that in the case of a catastrophic plan
described in section 1302(e), a qualified individual may
enroll in the plan only if the individual is eligible to enroll
in the plan under section 1302(e)(2).
(D) MEMBERS OF CONGRESS IN THE EXCHANGE.—
(i) REQUIREMENT.—Notwithstanding any other
provision of law, after the effective date of this subtitle,
the only health plans that the Federal Government
may make available to Members of Congress and
congressional staff with respect to their service as a
Member of Congress or congressional staff shall be
health plans that are—
(I) created under this Act (or an amendment
made by this Act); or
(II) offered through an Exchange established
under this Act (or an amendment made by this