KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Congressional Health Coverage At Center Of House GOP Concerns

Conservatives argue that federal contributions to their health insurance, which the health law requires them to purchase in the new online marketplaces, is an unfair subsidy. But Democrats say the government is just providing the same support that it has in the past and is in line with what other big employers give workers.

The New York Times: Conservatives Look To End Health Contributions For Congress Members And Staff
A group of House Republican conservatives met midday on Tuesday to discuss an acceptable alternative to a House proposal to reopen the government that was abandoned earlier in the day for lack of support. What many seek is a provision that would eliminate government contributions to the health plans for members of Congress and their staff members — as well as for the president, vice president and members of the cabinet — who would obtain their insurance through the exchanges established by the Affordable Care Act (Steinhauer, 10/15).

USA Today: Congressional Health Care Bogs Down Shutdown Talks
Congress' own health insurance could be one of the last obstacles to reaching a deal to reopen the government and avoid default. House Republicans floated a bill Tuesday that would have ended the 16-day federal government shutdown and raised the debt limit, but it also would have eliminated the employer contribution for health care for all members of Congress, their staffs, the president, the vice president, and all their political appointees (Korte, 10/15).

Fox News: Sen. Vitter: Democrats 'Determined' To Protect The Political Elite From ObamaCare Costs
GOP Sen. David Vitter says the White House and Democratic leaders are determined to protect the political elite from ObamaCare costs, telling Fox News' Greta Van Susteren that's the reason he and GOP Rep. Ron deSantis' amendments that would end subsidies for lawmakers under the health law have been opposed. Vitter, who is mounting a campaign to get rid of the subsidies in the Senate, said on "On the Record" he believes Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid would resist and try to squash his amendment if it was attached to a budget deal. "President Obama went so far as to issue a personal veto about this language today," Vitter said (10/15).

Politico Pro: How Much Would Lawmakers Pay For Insurance Next Year?
House Republicans are suggesting lawmakers — and possibly their staff — shouldn't get government contributions to their health insurance. It's part of the House GOP plan, which is still in flux, to end the government shutdown and raise the debt limit. And it's a vote that could hit lawmakers directly in the pocketbooks. If the federal contribution is eliminated, lawmakers will have to pay the entire tab. If they keep the contribution that most federal workers get, they would pay only about one-quarter of that amount (Haberkorn, 10/15).

Politico: Obama Vows Veto Over Vitter Measure
President Barack Obama told House Democratic leaders Tuesday that he would veto debt-ceiling legislation if it includes a provision pushed by Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) and House GOP leaders that would cut health subsidies for congressional and senior executive branch officials, according to sources familiar with the discussion at a private White House meeting (Allen, 10/15).

Roll Call: Senate Staff Gets Guidance (For Now) On Obamacare Exchanges
Senate staffers were notified by the Disbursing Office on Tuesday that they will need to enter the D.C. health care exchange, regardless of their state of residency, and will lose their employer contribution if they do not enter the D.C. exchange, according to a memo obtained by CQ Roll Call (Shiner, 10/15).

The Hill: Grassley: End Health Contributions For Hill Staff
Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) said he never intended to make lawmakers and congressional aides cover the full cost of their healthcare plans, but that he believes it's the only fair thing to do. Grassley sponsored the provision in ObamaCare that requires members of Congress and their staffs to buy healthcare coverage through the law's insurance exchanges (Baker, 10/15).

The Washington Post’s Fact Checker: Did Obama Exempt 1,200 Groups, Including Congress, From Obamacare?
The waivers were granted to companies (such as McDonald's or other fast food chains) that provided inexpensive bare-bones health plans known as "mini-meds," in what the administration called "a bridge" to 2014, when the law would be fully implemented. That's because the law says that annual coverage limits can't be lower than $750,000 in 2013 — and there are no annual dollar limits starting in 2014. ... As for Congress being exempted, this is also incorrect. ... For lawmakers and their staffs, the loss of employer contributions would have amounted to an unintended pay cut of between $5,000 to $10,000. Under pressure from Congress, the Office of Personnel Management proposed a rule in August, which was finalized in September, saying the federal government could still contribute to health-care premiums (Kessler, 10/16).

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