“The Senate GOP may not really want to immunize their own member and staff health plans from their health care policy changes, but because they are seeking to bring their bill to the floor under the expedited budget reconciliation process, they have little choice.” — RollCall.com
The Senate’s convoluted budget rules are the reason GOP members and staff will be exempt from the new healthcare law, if it ever passes.
Bringing the Better Care Reconciliation Act to the floor under the expedited budget reconciliation process means following certain procedures, according to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.
“While this exemption was included in the Senate healthcare bill out of procedural necessity, we must still be diligent in ensuring that Members of Congress are treated just like other Americans under this law,” said Cruz in a statement. “This is an issue of fundamental fairness. Lawmakers are not above the laws that they pass and I believe that it is crucial that Members of Congress abide by the same laws that their own constituents follow.”
The exemption has been an easy target for groups in opposition to the GOP’s efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare. “Senators did make the bill better for one group of Americans … themselves,” according to one union-backed group, called Save My Care.
An article in Roll Call explained, “As part of the implementation of the 2010 health care law, members of Congress and many staffers both on Capitol hill and in state-based offices shifted from getting health insurance benefits through the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program to the small-business exchange in Washington, D.C.” That decision caused critics to charge that senators and staffers were receiving special treatment.
Approximately 11,000 people are currently identified as congressional enrollees in the D.C. Small Business Health Options Program, or SHOP, according to a spokesman for the D.C. Health Benefit Exchange Authority. Congressional enrollees account for nearly 17 percent of total SHOP enrollees.
The reason staff and lawmaker health benefits were not exempted is because the new bill could lose its privileged status, which would subject it to needing 60 votes instead of 50 in order to overcome procedural hurdles.
Former Sen. David Vitter (R-Louisiana) tried to end the employer benefit in a long, drawn-out legal saga which continues to this day.
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