Last week, Politico was flogging a story in which there is going to be, if it hasn’t already started, a mass exodus of Congressional staffers due to Obamacare.
Like many Politico stories, it contained only part of the truth. Per Joan McCarter:
Here’s the story. Congress is talking about how figure out what to do with itself, and its employees, after it let Sen. Chuck Grassley screw things up. See, Grassley thought he could make Democrats look bad by offering up an amendment to the Affordable Care Act that would force Congress onto the new health exchanges. The plan was, Democrats would reject it and look like hypocrites. Which they did not do. They adopted it.
The problem is, members of Congress and their staff are all employees of a very large employer, the federal government. In their wisdom, they didn’t pass a provision to go along with Grassley’s amendment to address this single large employer that would be forced onto the exchange. Large employers aren’t allowed on the exchanges until 2017, and will only be accepted at that time if the state decides to let them on. But right now, there are no procedures for handling premium contributions for large employers. This means that it’s possible the federal government wouldn’t pay the employer’s portion of health insurance premiums for members of Congress and staff.
There’s a deeper reality being revealed here. Today’s Republican party cares nothing about policy. They aren’t interested in it, they don’t try to understand it. Grassley’s amendment was offered for purely political reasons with no concern for the policy effects. So of course the real world policy effects are negative. Had Grassley simply left well enough alone, this wouldn’t be an issue. I’m also guessing he figured that even if it passed, the Dems would come along later and fix it which would give him political fodder (he’d scream about “Democrats exempting Congress from the law”). But that assumed Dems would retain control of the House. Republicans in the House care about policy even less than Senate Republicans. So the Grassley’s messed up Amendment remains in place and is panicking Republicans in Congress.
And of course, the folks at Politico.
The Office of Personnel Management, which oversees benefits for all federal employees, hasn’t determined their interpretation of the law yet, and is quite likely to decide that the federal government can continue to pay its part of employee benefits. As of this moment, this isn’t a real thing to panic about. But it’s a fun Obamacare scare story for Republicans and Politico.