Setting the Record Straight
A recent article in the New York Times discredited the latest Democrat attack accusing members of Congress of “voting to give themselves taxpayer-funded health care for life.” The article describes many Democrat campaign ads against Republican members. The accusation originates from a provision in the President’s health care law requiring members of Congress and congressional staff to get their employer-provided health benefits from the law’s state health insurance exchanges. The provision was included in the law at the request of Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), who wanted to ensure that members of Congress live under the same laws it passes for the rest of the country. Ironically, this provision does not apply to the President, Vice President, top White House staff, cabinet members, and congressional committee and leadership staff.
Today, current and retired Members of Congress are eligible for private insurance through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP), along with millions of other federal employees. Through very twisted logic, Democrats allege that by voting to repeal the entire health care law, and thus restoring their FEHBP eligibility, Republicans are voting to give themselves ”tax-payer funded health care for life.”
As the article points out, the attacks are based on the premise that members of Congress currently have tax-payer financed coverage for life. As a refresher, there were 206 different health plan options in FEHBP for 2012, according to the Congressional Research Service. These plans include the nationwide fee-for-service plan offered by Blue Cross Blue Shield, local HMO plans, and high-deductible health plans (HDHPs). Various levels of coverage are offered, with higher premiums and lower cost-sharing, to lower premiums and higher cost-sharing. Like other employer-sponsored plans around the country, the federal government and enrollees share the cost of the premiums for FEHB plans; the government currently contributes 72% of the weighted average premium of all plans in the program. Upon retirement, members of Congress—like all other federal employees—typically can continue FEHBP coverage if they have been continuously enrolled in FEBHP for five years prior. Members of Congress are also eligible for Medicare, and pay the same Medicare payroll tax on their salary as other workers.
In short, Members are eligible for the exact same health benefits as other federal employees, and they pay the same premiums. House Republicans voted to repeal the President’s health care law because it adds trillions of dollars to existing liabilities, drives costs up even further, contains 20 new or higher taxes, and too often puts federal bureaucrats, instead of doctors and patients, in charge of health care decision making. To say Republican members were motivated to repeal the law in order to keep themselves out of the health care exchanges is a blatant lie.
Additionally, the law does not specify whether federal premium contributions for plans purchased by members on the exchanges will continue, nor does it address retiree health coverage for members.
Staff Contact: For questions or further information contact Lisa Collins.