"It's always reassuring to find you've made the right enemies." -- William J. Donovan
No one is required to give up their employer-sponsored benefits to shop in an exchange--the law actually goes in the opposite direction and institutes an employer mandate to maintain the employer-based system.
Exchanges are supposed to be for the minority of people who don't have the option of getting coverage through their job (with some employers allowed to take their employees into the exchanges if they wish). In that case, it gives them new options to shop in a competitive, consumer-friendly marketplace with the possibility of financial assistance depending on their income.
Congress (and their staffs) are the only people in the country singled out in the law and explicitly required to give up their current plans and start shopping in an exchange. But, as I said, the law doesn't phrase it as them losing their employer benefit and having to go obtain coverage on their own, their arrangement is described as being made available by their employer with respect to their service. In other words, the implication is that they have to choose from the same plans available to people without employer coverage, not that they're supposed to take a pay cut by losing the health benefit component of their compensation package.
ask the amendment's author what his intent was:
No intent to strip members of Congress or their staffs of their employer contribution.The provision in question stemmed from an amendment Grassley authored and for which he won Finance Committee approval in September 2009. The Grassley amendment said that members of Congress and their staff must get their health insurance coverage from the exchanges that would be established in the health care overhaul. This congressional coverage initiative built on many years of work by Senator Grassley to have Congress live under the laws it passes for the rest of the country. In 1995, legislation authored by Grassley to apply 12 civil rights, labor and employment laws to Congress for the first time.
The story in today’s New York Times reports that TV commercials being run on behalf of Democratic candidates for Congress assert that members of Congress who voted to repeal the 2010 health care law have voted to give themselves taxpayer-funded health care for life.” Senator Grassley said his provision, even in the final form it took in the law that was enacted makes no changes to the employer contribution to federal employee health care coverage and no changes to federal retiree health care.
Bottom line ... something as massive as the ACA was never intended to be fair to all but rather to reward & cement in place the dependency of certain constituencies and what couldn't be implemented in the law would be implemented via regulation.
So for the Unions to end up suffering from the ACA is something I'll believe when I see it.