Pronk Pops Show 121, August 16, 2013: Segment 1: Ruling Elite To American People–Congress and Staff is Exempt From Obamacare Despite The Fact The Law Clearly States Congress Is Not! — Stop Funding Obamacare Now! — Sign The Petition — Videos
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Segment 1: Ruling Elite To American People–Congress and Staff is Exempt From Obamacare Despite The Fact The Law Clearly States Congress Is Not! — Stop Funding Obamacare Now! — Sign The Petition — Videos
King Obama decrees subsidies for Congress to pay for Obamacare: the ruling class vs. the American people, Part 1
By Raymond Thomas Pronk
United States Capitol Building, Capitol Hill, Washington D.C. Credit: megoracle.com
Only the ruling class in Washington, both Democrats and Republicans, would cavalierly disregard the wisdom on the proverb, “What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.”
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act signed into law by President Barack Obama on March 23, 2010, commonly known as Obamacare, requires members of Congress and their staffs (currently about 11,000 people) to purchase their health insurance plans through new state-based markets known as insurance exchanges.
Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), who originally proposed this requirement as an amendment to the Obamacare bill, said at the time he wanted “members of Congress and congressional staff to get their employer-based health insurance through the same exchanges as our constituents.”
Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) revised the Grassley amendment when the Obamacare bill was rushed to a vote on Christmas Eve in 2009. The resulting 906-page bill still required members of Congress and their staffs to purchase the mandated health insurance plans through the exchanges but failed to include legislative language that would continue premium contributions to them that the federal government makes for its employees.
Currently, members of Congress and their staffs obtain health insurance plans through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP). The FEHBP covers more than 8 million people including government employees and their families, provides dozen of competing plans and is the nation’s largest employer-sponsored health insurance program. By law this should soon end for members of Congress and staff as the state insurance exchanges begin operation on Oct.1.
Individuals without qualified health insurance coverage through their employers or covered by Medicare or Medicaid are required by law to purchase health insurance coverage by Jan. 1, 2014 and may qualify for federal subsidies. Low-income individuals and families above 100 percent and up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level will receive federal subsidies on a sliding scale if they choose to purchase insurance via an insurance exchange. For 2013 the federal poverty guideline level for an individual is $11,390 and for a family of four it’s $23,550 (see Annual Update of the HHS Poverty Guidelines).
Starting in 2014 members of Congress and their staffs by law must purchase their health insurance through the exchanges and no longer through FEHBP. United States senators and representatives earn $174,000 per year. The speaker of the House and the House majority and minority Leaders earn $223,500 per year. Senate majority and minority leaders earn $193,400 as do other House leadership positions. Therefore, members of Congress and their highly paid staff would not be eligible for any subsidies under Obamacare.
Reid has made it very clear that “There are not now, have never been, nor will there be any discussions about exempting members of Congress from Affordable Care Act provisions that apply to any employees of any other public or private employer offering health care.”
However, those who work for Congressional committees and leadership offices, such as Senate Majority Leader Reid’s office, are apparently exempt from requirement to obtain their health insurance coverage through the exchanges and will continue to obtain their subsided health insurance plans through the FEHBP.
Obama’s Office of Personnel Management (OPM) on Aug. 7 issued regulations that members of Congress and their staffs will continue to receive premium contribution subsidies based on the FEHBP’s defined-contribution formula that covers about 75 percent of the cost of the average health insurance plan or about $5,000 for an individual and $11,000 for a family for fiscal year 2014 that begins Oct.1.
“These proposed regulations implement the administrative aspects of switching Members of Congress and congressional staff to their new insurance plans – the same plans available to millions of Americans through the new Exchanges,” said OPM Director of Planning and Policy Jon Foley in an OPM Aug. 7 news release.
The OPM claims that a legal loophole in the Obamacare law, the phrase “notwithstanding any other provision of law,” is legal justification and authority for continuing member of Congress and staff keeping their employee subsidies. This proposed regulation simply ignores the fact a provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act under Part II Employer Responsibilities, Sec. 1515. Offering of Exchange-participating qualified health plans through cafeteria plans, “prohibits an employer from providing a qualified health plan through an Exchange as a benefit under its cafeteria plan.”
Furthermore, most Congressional staff employees will most likely remain under FEHBP and not be forced into the mandated health insurance exchanges because the term “official office” of a member of Congress does not have an existing statutory definition under Obamacare.
The ruling class in Washington, both Democrats and Republicans, will continue to be subsided by the American taxpayer. Obamacare will force more than 30 million Americans to either purchase health insurance that many cannot afford and do not want, or pay a penalty. Those between the ages of 18 and 29, who increasingly cannot find full-time jobs with employers who offer health insurance coverage, are especially affected by this requirement.
Raymond Thomas Pronk presents the Pronk Pops Show on KDUX web radio from 3-5 p.m. Fridays and authors the companion blog http://www.pronkpops.wordpress.com.
King Obama decrees subsidies to Congress to pay for Obamacare: the ruling class vs. the American people, Part 2
[Part 1 of this article appeared in online edition of the Richland Chronicle]
By Raymond Thomas Pronk
One of the unintended consequences of Obamacare is employers attempting to avoid the costs and penalties of the law by hiring mostly part-time employees and cutting the number of hours worked per week to less than 30 hours and per month to less than 120 hours. Businesses are also attempting to avoid the Obamacare employer-mandated health insurance for full-time employees by not hiring their 50th full-time employee.
Under the employer mandate provisions of Obamacare, businesses with more than 50 employees that do not provide a federal government qualified health insurance plan, must pay a penalty of $2,000 per year for each full-time employee minus 30. In the United States, less than 4 percent of businesses have more than 50 employees with less than 0.2 percent of these businesses not offering health insurance, according to a Forbes online article titled “Is The Affordable Care Act Really Bad For Business?”
Under Obamacare colleges are required starting in 2014 to provide health insurance coverage to employees who work more than 30 hours a week. Most colleges have strict limits on the number of hours part-time instructors can work in a pay period so the college can avoid paying employee-benefits such as health insurance and retirement plans.
Colleges across the nation are reducing the number of full-time faculty and hiring mostly part-time instructors, known as adjunct professors or jokingly as “road scholars”. According to the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), “In 1975, only 30.2 percent of faculty were employed part time; by 2005, according to data compiled by the AAUP from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), part-time faculty represented approximately 48 percent of all faculty members in the United States.” Obamacare will only accelerate this growing trend toward part-time faculty with strict limits on the number of hours worked, especially at community colleges such as Richland College.
Starting in the 2013 fall semester, “an adjunct faculty member may only teach a workload of nine credit hours or less each week (less than 20 clock hours per week) according to Teachers Retirement System guidelines,” as set forth in the online Part-Time Employment Guidelines of the Dallas County Community College District (DCCCD).
Furthermore, “part-time hourly, adjunct faculty-credit, adjunct faculty-continuing education (CE) and substitute faculty employees may work a maximum of 1,014 hours per fiscal year (hours include the cumulative total of all positions worked at all District locations),” according to Dallas County Community College District’s online document, Extra-Service Guidelines for Instructional Delivery.
The Department of the Treasury announced on its website on July 2 that the employer mandate would be delayed one year from Jan. 1, 2014 as required under Obamacare until Jan.1, 2015. Now that Obama has delayed implementation of the Obamacare employer mandate, 56 percent of American voters favor delaying for a year the individual mandate as well, with only 26 percent opposed according to the July 13 Rasmussen Reports. While American voters oppose the individual mandate by a 2-to-1 margin, most voters favor the employer mandate for businesses with 50 or more employees by 59 percent in favor and 34 percent oppose, according to Rasmussen Reports.
During the last six months of 2013, about 963,000 more people were employed and about 936,000 were part-time jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Aug. 2, Household Survey. “Over the last six months, of the net job creation, 97 percent of that is part-time work,” said Keith Hall, a senior researcher at George Mason University’s Mercatus Center and former head of the US Bureau of Labor (BLS) Statistics from 2008 to 2012.
The House of Representative controlled by the Republicans, has passed legislation to repeal Obamacare in its entirety 40 times. The Democratic controlled Senate has blocked such legislation from becoming law. However, tea-party aligned Senators led Mike Lee (R-Utah), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Rand Paul (R-Ky) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla) and 10 other Senators and 60 House Republicans have signed a letter urging the Republican leadership to defund Obamacare by passing a continuing resolution that would fund for fiscal year 2014 the federal government in its entirety except for Obamacare.
The only way this tea party initiative can succeed is for the American people to rise up against the ruling class in Washington. Sen. Cruz said, “The most important constitutional check that Congress has on an overreaching president is the power of the purse. If Republicans stand together, we can actually succeed in defunding it.”
During the August congressional recess the tea party aligned senators and representatives will be building an army of grassroots support from the American people to defund Obamacare.
Unlike the ruling class in Washington who receive taxpayer subsidies to pay for their health insurance under Obamacare, the American people are not exempt from both pay and/or employee-benefit cuts resulting from the implementation of Obamacare.
Raymond Thomas Pronk presents the Pronk Pops Show on KDUX web radio from 3-5 p.m. Fridays and authors the companion blog http://www.pronkpops.wordpress.com.
“Shut It Down” – New Tea Party Plan To Defund Obamacare – Jim Demint – On The Record
ObamaCare Exemptions: Sign The Petition!
Congressmen and Staff Refuse To Face ObamaCare Fees They Voted For
Congress Gets 75% Subsidy For Obamacare: Rush Limbaugh
Greg Gutfeld – IRS Wants Obamacare Exemption – ‘The Five’ – Fox News – 7-26-13
Sen Ted Cruz (R-TX) on Stopping Obamacare –
We can prevent the train wreck if we defund Obamacare now
Sen. Ted Cruz Speaks in Support of his Amendment to Defund Obamacare and Stop the Amnesty Tax
Tea party senator Mike Lee would rather shut down the government than implement Obamacare
Mike Lee vows to defund Obamacare; Law not ready to be implemented & will harm average Americans
Rubio Pushes Senate To Defund ObamaCare
Rand Paul stands with Mike Lee on defunding Obamacare
Obamacare Outrage! – Congress Scores Exemption For Themselves – On The Record
Special Treatment for Congress- Obamacare Exemption
Obamacare Exemption For Congress Staff Where Did They Get Authority To Do This
Congress Members & Hill Staff Fear They Can’t Afford Health Care Under Obamacare! Can America?
Health Care Pass RPT Congress Tried To Exempt Itself From Law – Obamacare -Lou Dobbs – Megyn Kelly
Obamacare requirement is delayed
Administration will fix huge increase in health care premiums for Congress
The Obama administration detailed Wednesday how the government can keep contributing to health care premiums of members of Congress and their staffers even as they purchase coverage through state exchanges tied to the president’s health care law.
Guidance from the Office of Personnel Management follows up an announcement last week that Congress and its staffers won’t face massive increases in their health care premiums next year, as many feared, because of a clause in the Affordable Care Act that compels them to buy insurance through the exchanges.
The decision stirred relief on Capitol Hill and controversy among the public. Republican opponents of the law could argue that Congress excused itself from a deleterious aspect of legislation it passed in 2010.
OPM’s new rule says congressional members and staff should buy coverage through the exchanges in the states where they reside. For staffers, that likely will mean enrolling through the District, Maryland or Virginia.
The rule also says members of Congress should designate, by October each year, which staff members work in their official offices and “therefore, must choose health plans from the Exchanges.”
The administrative fix was made because Sen. Chuck Grassley, Iowa Republican, put a provision into the original legislation saying members of Congress and their aides have to be covered by plans “created” by the Affordable Care Act or “offered through an exchange.”
Even though it may have been symbolic or a political ploy, the provision was approved.
Under the old system, the federal government contributed to about 75 percent of premiums; members and staffers are covered through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, but it was unclear whether the program could subsidize premiums of plans in the exchanges.
The OPM makes clear that members and staff still can receive the contribution, although they are not eligible for tax credits or subsidies on the exchanges.
Sen. David Vitter, Louisiana Republican and a vocal critic of the administration’s decision, complained about the developments in a letter to congressional leaders Wednesday. When Congress reconvenes next month, the senator will introduce legislation that forces the president, vice president, political appointees and certain exempted congressional staffers to buy their health coverage through the exchanges.
“The Obamacare statute states very clearly that all Members of Congress and their staffs are to procure their health insurance through the Obamacare Exchange,” his letter said. “Just as clearly, it does not reconstitute government support of their present coverage under the separate Federal Employees Health Benefits Plan (FEHBP) as payment toward the Exchange. … Until Obamacare is fully repealed, those elected by the public must abide by the same law Americans are being forced to live with.”
He said the provision that allows members of Congress “to define what staff is even covered at all is particularly offensive and obnoxious.”
“It’s obviously intended to allow for a significant portion of congressional staff, like leadership staff, to be exempted from even having to deal with the Exchange at all, notwithstanding the whopping subsidy that the rule creates,” he said in his letter.
Enrollment in the exchanges — marketplaces where consumers can shop for and buy insurance — is scheduled to begin Oct. 1. Democrats and Republicans are planning significant public relations campaigns on the law during the congressional summer recess.
Members, staff will keep health-care subsidies under Obamacare
Members of Congress and Hill staffers will not lose their health-care subsidies from the government when Obamacare is implemented because of an exception proposed Wednesday by the Office of Personnel Management.
Under the current system, the government covers most of the cost of health-care premiums for members and their staffers. But an amendment to the Affordable Care Act — proposed by Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley — threw those subsidies into question, saying that members and staff must enter into the exchanges or be covered by insurance “created” by law.
The potential for staff losing the subsidies led to concerns of “brain drain” from the Hill if staffers left as a result of the increased costs.
Last week, when President Barack Obama came to the Hill to meet with Senate Democrats, he informed them that he would personally get involved to sort out the confusion, and the White House said that OPM would issue guidelines this week.
The guidelines, released Wednesday, allow for members and staff to retain their subsidies from the government, an exception in exchange for giving up “premium tax credits” that they would otherwise be eligible for under Obamacare.
“The amount of the employer contribution toward their Exchange premiums is no more than would otherwise be made toward coverage under the [Federal Employee Health Benefits] Program,” the OPM release notes.
“These proposed regulations implement the administrative aspects of switching Members of Congress and congressional staff to their new insurance plans — the same plans available to millions of Americans through the new Exchanges,” said Jon Foley, OPM Director of Planning and Policy, in a statement.
Congress and an Exemption from ‘Obamacare’?
Q: Is it true that there are bills in Congress that would exempt members and their staffs and families from buying into “Obamacare”?
A: No. Congress members and staffers will be required to buy insurance through the exchanges on Jan. 1.
Is it true that there are bills in the House and Senate that will exempt members and their staff and families from buying into Obamacare?
Several readers have asked us about Congress attempting to exempt itself from the requirements of the Affordable Care Act. A few said that a Facebook post claimed that President Barack Obama, Sen. Harry Reid and Democrats in Congress were trying to “get themselves exempted from Obamacare,” in the words of one reader.
But there is no bill in Congress calling for an exemption from the health care law. In fact, members of Congress and their staffs face additional requirements that most Americans don’t have to meet.
Under the health care law, their insurance coverage will have to switch from the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, the group of private insurance plans that cover 8 million federal employees and retirees, to the exchanges created by the law. Those exchanges are meant for those who buy coverage on their own, the currently uninsured and small businesses. Members of Congress and their staffs would be the only employees of a large employer in the exchanges, which are set to begin offering insurance in January.
So, why is the false “exempt” claim making the Facebook rounds? There is reportedly concern on Capitol Hill that the Office of Personnel Management, which administers the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, won’t be able to smoothly transition members and their staffs into an exchange. The concern, as a Roll Call story explained, was that the government wouldn’t be able to make contributions toward the federal employees’ premiums, at least at the beginning of 2014. That would mean employees would pick up the whole tab for their insurance policies. Right now, the government pays 72 percent of premiums on average.
The “exempt” claims were sparked by a Politico report on April 24 that said secret talks were being held by lawmakers to change the requirement to get insurance through the exchanges because of this concern. The headline on the story said “Lawmakers, aides may get Obamacare exemption.”
After the story was published, a spokesman for Sen. Harry Reid said there hadn’t been any discussions to exempt Congress from “provisions that apply to any employees of any other public or private employer offering health care.” And Democratic Rep. Henry Waxman of California told Politico that lawmakers and their staffs will indeed get insurance through the exchanges. “[T]he federal government will offer them health insurance coverage that they obtained through the exchanges because we want to get the same health care coverage everybody else has available to them,” he said.
We contacted the Office of Personnel Management and received this statement from an administration official: “Members of Congress will not receive anything that is not available to the public. The law doesn’t allow them to get insurance from FEHB, they are going to get insurance on the market place, just like uninsured individuals and small businesses.”
We can’t say what did or didn’t happen in any secret meetings. But we can say that no bill has been introduced to exempt members of Congress from the Affordable Care Act — and they were never exempt in the first place. Even if, hypothetically, Congress were to nullify the provision requiring members and their staffs to get insurance on the exchanges, it still wouldn’t amount to an exemption from the law. Lawmakers and staffers would be subject to the mandate to have health insurance or pay a fine, just as everyone else is.
The law provides a few exemptions from the requirement to have insurance, but only for those who earn too little to file taxes, those with financial hardships, those who can’t find affordable coverage, and some religious groups that qualify for Social Security exemptions, mainly Mennonite or Amish.
An Old Falsehood
Bogus claims about Congress being “exempt” date back to early 2010, when different health care bills were still being debated. Some Republicans claimed that Americans, except for members of Congress, would be forced into the government-run “public option” (which wasn’t part of the final bill that became law) or state-based exchanges (which are part of the law).
As we said previously, members of Congress get private health insurance through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, which actually served as a model for the exchanges. Federal workers pick from among many health plans. The exchanges would operate in the same way — like a marketplace for those shopping for private insurance.
But some Republicans pushed the idea that if the exchanges were good enough for other Americans, they should be good enough for Congress. So, an amendment by Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa was added to the Senate bill requiring that the federal government offer only health plans that were part of an exchange to members of Congress and their staffs. The law’s final language on this, written by Sen. Tom Coburn, says that: “the only health plans that the Federal Government may make available to Members of Congress and congressional staff with respect to their service as a Member of Congress or congressional staff shall be health plans that are — (I) created under this Act (or an amendment made by this Act); or (II) offered through an Exchange established under this Act.”
Congressional “staff” is defined as “all full-time and part-time employees employed by the official office of a Member of Congress, whether in Washington, DC or outside of Washington, DC.” As we reported before, Coburn said the provision wouldn’t apply to those working for committees or leadership staff, and a Congressional Research Service report agreed that could be the case.
In other words, the Affordable Care Act places on lawmakers and their staffs additional requirements that don’t pertain to other Americans with work-based insurance.
Update, Aug. 7, 2013: The Office of Personnel Management issued a proposed rule on Aug. 7 explaining that members of Congress and applicable congressional staff will be required to purchase health insurance coverage through the exchanges created by the law. However, according to the proposed rule, the federal government, as the employer, will still be able to make a contribution to health insurance premiums as it currently does. The contribution will be no greater than that now offered to members and their staffs under the FEHB program, and members and their staffs will not be eligible for premium tax credits made available to other persons purchasing health insurance through the exchanges.
– Lori Robertson
Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Public Law 111–148. 111th Congress
The Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) Program. OPM.gov. accessed 3 May 2013.
Ethridge, Emily. “Health Insurance Anxiety on Capitol Hill.” 25 Apr 2013.
Robertson, Lori. “Congress Exempt from Health Bill?” FactCheck.org. 20 Jan 2010.
Jackson, Brooks. “Health Care for Members of Congress?” FactCheck.org. 25 Aug 2009.
Bresnahan, John and Jake Sherman. “Lawmakers, aides may get Obamacare exemption.” Politico. 24 Apr 2013.
Baker, Sam. “Dems won’t seek ObamaCare exemption.” The Hill. 25 Apr 3013.
Henig, Jess. “More Malarkey About Health Care.” FactCheck.org. 19 Apr 2010.
UPDATE 1-U.S. Congress wins relief on Obamacare health plan subsidies
Congress, staff, to keep federal health premium payments
* Ruling aimed at avoiding “brain drain” on Capitol Hill (Adds comments from Republicans, Pelosi, edits)
By David Lawder
WASHINGTON, Aug 7 (Reuters) – Congress has won some partial relief for lawmakers and their staffs from the “Obamacare” health reforms that it passed and subjected itself to three years ago.
In a ruling issued on Wednesday, U.S. lawmakers and their staffs will continue to receive a federal contribution toward the health insurance that they must purchase through soon-to-open exchanges created by President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law.
The decision by the Office of Personnel Management, with Obama’s blessing, will prevent the largely unintended loss of healthcare benefits for 535 members of the Senate and House of Representatives and thousands of Capitol Hill staff.
When Congress passed the health reform law known as Obamacare in 2010, an amendment required that lawmakers and their staff members purchase health insurance through the online exchanges that the law created. They would lose generous coverage under the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program.
The amendment’s author, Republican Senator Charles Grassley, argued that if Obamacare plans were good enough for the American public, they were good enough for Congress. Democrats, eager to pass the reforms, went along with it.
But it soon became apparent the provision contained no language that allowed federal contributions toward their health plans that cover about 75 percent of the premium costs.
This caused fears that staff would suddenly face sharply higher healthcare costs and leave federal service, causing a “brain drain” on Capitol Hill.
But Wednesday’s proposed rule from the OPM, the federal government’s human resources agency, means that Congress will escape the most onerous impact of law as it was written.
The OPM said the federal contributions will be allowed to continue for exchange-purchased plans for lawmakers and their staffs, ensuring that those working on Capitol Hill will effectively get the same health contributions as millions of other federal workers who keep their current plan.
The problem surrounding the Obamacare language for Capitol Hill staff was the subject of intense negotiations in recent weeks between House and Senate leaders and the Obama administration.
Some Republicans immediately slammed the OPM decision, using it as fuel for their campaign to turn public opinion against Obamacare just as its core provisions are due to go into effect.
“While the administration has handed out waiver after waiver and exemption after exemption for the well-connected in Washington, they have done nothing to lower health care costs for families in Michigan,” said Dave Camp, chairman of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee.
Camp said the OPM ruling is the “latest proof” of impending failure for the reforms and pledged that Republicans would keep trying to repeal them.
Last week, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said the language problem would have caused unintended “collateral damage” on congressional staff, causing many to leave for the private sector.
“They are a tremendous intellectual resource, people who could, shall we say, be better compensated financially outside” of government, said Pelosi, who spearheaded passage of the health care law in 2010 as House Speaker.
STILL MUST PURCHASE PLANS
Lawmakers and staff still must purchase plans on the exchanges for coverage that starts in January, OPM said, and they will not be eligible for tax credits to offset premium payments. These credits are the main federal subsidy mechanism for all other health plans purchased through Obamacare exchanges due to open in October. These tax subsidies fall off quickly as income rises.
Tim Jost, a healthcare law expert at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia, said it was probably never Congress’ intention to take away federal benefit contributions from Capitol Hill employees, just to push them into them into the exchanges.
“This clarifies what they really intended to do all along,” Jost said. “Congress had subjected itself to a requirement that applied to nobody else in the country.”
Republican Senator David Vitter vowed to reverse the OPM ruling to ensure that no members of Congress, Capitol Hill staff nor Obama administration appointees get any federal subsidies for health insurance purchased on Obamacare health exchanges.
“These recent maneuverings inside the beltway are precisely why the American people rightly despise Congress,” said Vitter, of Louisiana. “Perhaps if White House appointees and Congress have to live under these same Obamacare rules, things would be changed quickly for the better.” (Reporting By David Lawder; Editing by Bill Trott and Cynthia Osterman)