Congress isn’t “exempt” from the law. It wasn’t exempt back in 2010, when we first debunked such a claim; nor were lawmakers exempt in May when the bogus bit surfaced again.
Three months later, they’re still not exempt. In fact, as we’ve said before, lawmakers and their staffs face additional requirements that other Americans don’t. And the “special subsidy” to which Pittenger refers is simply a premium contribution that his employer, the federal government, has long made to the health insurance policies of its workers.
The Affordable Care Act says that starting in 2014, members of Congress and their staffs can no longer get their health insurance through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, as they have in the past. Instead, these federal employees will have to get insurance through the exchanges set up by the Affordable Care Act. Other Americans with work-based insurance aren’t subject to such a requirement. They can continue to get health insurance through their employers. Other federal workers, too, can continue to select health insurance plans through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program. But not Congress.
Why the unusual requirement for lawmakers and congressional staffers? This provision was added when health care bills were being debated, out of Republican concern that Congress get the same insurance that would be offered to some Americans through this legislation — insurance sold through state-based and federal exchanges. Those exchanges are for individuals who buy their own insurance, including the now uninsured, and small businesses.
Our readers may recall that before this provision was created, there were claims circulating that Congress was “exempt” from the law. This twisted reading of the legislation was based on the fact that originally Congress, like other Americans with work-based insurance or Americans on Medicare and Medicaid, wouldn’t be eligible for the exchanges. In other words, Congress was supposedly “exempt” when members couldn’t participate in the exchanges, and now that they are required to do so, they’re still somehow “exempt” from the law. Neither of these convoluted claims is true.