Traverse City Record-Eagle

Opinion

May 11, 2013

Fact Check: Congress and 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. But reportedly there is concern about whether federal contributions to premiums can continue without a change.

FULL QUESTION

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?

FULL ANSWER

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.

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