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NYT: Congress Gets Special ‘Perks’ In O-Care

From a selectively outraged New York Times:

Perks Ease Way in Health Plans for Lawmakers

By ROBERT PEAR | November 19, 2013

WASHINGTON — Members of Congress like to boast that they will have the same health care enrollment experience as constituents struggling with the balky federal website, because the law they wrote forced lawmakers to get coverage from the new insurance exchanges.

That is true.

Not it isn’t. Not even a little. Starting with the fact that most people will not have 75% of their Obama-Care premiums subsidized by the US taxpayer.

A detail the New York Times does not even mention until the 13th paragraph of this article. Instead, they harp on some minor perks, which really are all due to their special subsidy.

As long as their constituents have access to “in-person support sessions” like the ones being conducted at the Capitol and congressional office buildings by the local exchange and four major insurers. Or can log on to a special Blue Cross and Blue Shield website for members of Congress and use a special toll-free telephone number — a “dedicated congressional health insurance plan assistance line.”

And then there is the fact that lawmakers have a larger menu of “gold plan” insurance choices than most of their constituents have back home.

While millions of Americans have been left to fend for themselves and go through the frustrating experience of trying to navigate the federal exchange, members of Congress and their aides have all sorts of assistance to help them sort through their options and enroll.

Lawmakers and the employees who work in their “official offices” will receive coverage next year through the small-business marketplace of the local insurance exchange, known as D.C. Health Link, which has staff members close at hand for guidance...

If lawmakers have questions about Aetna plan benefits and provider networks, they can call a special phone number that provides “member services for members of Congress and staff.”

Again, all of these minor perks are due to their huge perk, the carve out that gives them their 75% subsidy. These special plans and websites and help lines are all due to their receiving a taxpayer subsidy. So they have to be handled differently.

On the website run by the Obama administration for 36 states, it is notoriously difficult to see the prices, deductibles and other details of health plans. It is much easier for members of Congress and their aides to see and compare their options on websites run by the Senate, the House and the local exchange.

Lawmakers can select from 112 options offered in the “gold tier” of the District of Columbia exchange, far more than are available to most of their constituents.

Aetna is offering eight plan options to members of Congress, and Blue Cross and Blue Shield is offering 16. Eight are available from Kaiser Permanente, and 80 are on sale from the UnitedHealth Group.

Lawmakers and their aides are not eligible for tax credit subsidies, but the government pays up to 75 percent of their premiums, contributing a maximum of $5,114 a year for individual coverage and $11,378 for family coverage. The government contribution is based on the same formula used for most other federal employees…

As we have noted, The Times buries little detail. And even here they try to make it sound like it is no big deal.

This article was posted by Steve on Wednesday, November 20th, 2013. Comments are currently closed.

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