Monday, March 29, 2010

What Do You Think About This?

There has been considerable talk about whether Congressional members have to live by the health care insurance they have just shoved on the rest of us.

My Congressman is Vern Ehlers, a Republican who I have always had great respect for and have thought he is a good person who cares about his constituents. I don't think he is one that has ever really stood out or made any real major splash but still, a good man.

I e-mailed him and asked him why the GOP was not trying to force the Democrats into a vote on them receiving the same insurance as the rest of us. He replied claiming they will be required to use this insurance which was a major surprise to me.

Read his response though and let me know what you think.


Dear Mr. Hyde:


Thank you for contacting me about health insurance benefits for Members of Congress and congressional staff.

With regard to health insurance benefits, Members currently have the same benefits as all other federal employees. We are eligible to participate in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) and may select from among several health benefit plans. Participation is on a voluntary basis, and we must pay premiums. More information about the FEHBP is available at http://www.opm.gov/INSURE/HEALTH/INDEX.ASP.

The new health reform law, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (H.R. 3590), makes changes to the way health benefits would be provided to Members of Congress and most congressional staff. As you are aware, I voted against this legislation for many reasons, especially that it is far too complex and expensive. I believe that we can develop a better, more workable solution for health care.

In particular, Section 1312 requires that Members of Congress be included in the law's health insurance exchange. However, as the article you forwarded states, it appears that certain staff who work in the offices of congressional leaders and committees may be exempt since they are not technically "employed by the official office of a Member of Congress". I have pasted the relevant provisions below.

(D) MEMBERS OF CONGRESS IN THE EXCHANGE.?"

(i) REQUIREMENT.?"Notwithstanding any other provision of law, after the effective date of this subtitle, 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 (or an amendment made by this Act).

(ii) DEFINITIONS.?"In this section:

(I) MEMBER OF CONGRESS.?"The term ''Member of Congress'' means any member of the House of Representatives or the Senate.

(II) CONGRESSIONAL STAFF.?"The term ''congressional staff'' means 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.


This exemption for certain staff does not apply to my employees in Washington or Grand Rapids, and I should note that this provision would not become effective until 2014, giving Congress plenty of time to change it. Just yesterday, Representative Burgess (R-TX) introduced H.R. 4951, which would amend the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to include the President, Vice-President, Members of Congress, political appointees, and all congressional staff in the above-mentioned provision.


Thanks again for contacting me. With best wishes, I am


Sincerely,

Vernon J. Ehlers
Member of Congress

I am not a lawyer. Do you think this says that members of Congress must get the same insurance as the rest of the country? If it does, why is Rep Burgess proposing this law?

which would amend the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to include the President, Vice-President, Members of Congress, political appointees, and all congressional staff in the above-mentioned provision.

Finally, is anyone else surprised that a federal bill has so many question marks in it?

What do you think?

13 comments:

Always On Watch said...

I think that the question marks appears in some wort of copy-and-paste glitch. Just sayin'.

Ehlers stated: Members currently have the same benefits as all other federal employees.

Wouldn't it be ironic if all federal employees had to purchase their health insurance via the exchanges.

I thought that law and regulation put ALL federal employees under the same umbrella with regard to benefits. If that is indeed the case, ALL federal employees will have to follow the letter of ObamaKare in 2014, assuming, of course, that ObamaKare is not repealed or knocked down by a court ruling.

Another thought....If all federal employees are ousted from their present policies, would not the public option have to be offered? Just asking.

Always On Watch said...

Do you think this says that members of Congress must get the same insurance as the rest of the country? If it does, why is Rep Burgess proposing this law?

Apparently all would get the same insurance.

BTW, many federal employees have the dreaded pre-existing conditions and receive a lot of their care paid for almost completely.

Ehler is proposing the law because certain staff who work in the offices of congressional leaders and committees may be exempt since they are not technically "employed by the official office of a Member of Congress".

shoprat said...

Some laws are designed to confuse and mislead while the big guys do whatever they want.

Brooke said...

When it comes right down to it, I sincerely doubt that these dictators will have to abide by the law they are inflicting on us.

Anonymous said...

According to its tradition of “do what we say, not as we do,” you will notice that the Congress requires ‘plain English’ contracts for everyone except themselves. More the pity, because then we would be able to read a bill and determine the intent of Congress with regard thereto. On the other hand, then we should not be able to catch those bastards quite so easily … so yes, I do understand.

I do not think that Obamacare will adequately cover all members of the government. For example, including the military would be a disaster of epic proportions. What is revealed to us here is that in order to accommodate a miniscule percentage of our population (the so-called health care crisis), Obama and Congress decided to toss the baby out with the bathwater. This goes far beyond inane. Considering the costs of this debacle, we should regard it as treasonous.

Semper Fi

Mustang Sends

Miss T.C. Shore said...

Keep in mind that Federal Employees are NOT going to be covered under the new ObamaKare insurance. ObamaKare, designed to insure the uninsured and poor, is an expansion of Medicaid. Federal Employees are not a part of the Medicaid program. Their insurance reimburses at much higher rates. So, when doctors decide to STOP taking Medicaid (and ObamaKare), Federal employees and members of congress will still be able to see their doctors. Just not the poor and previously uninsured and anyone else who participates in the new, expanded system.

Ticker said...

Burgess is my Congressman here in North Texas. If he is putting forth an amendment that says Congress has to live under the same plan then something smells in the letter you received. Congressman Burgess is doctor and was against this mess from the word go. I talked to his office staff prior to the bill being passed and again afterward. He is for repealing the bill and he is also for Congress having to live with the consequences of their actions. His staff didn't think it funny that I would run against him if he was not for repeal. He is a straight shooter in my opinion.
I will call his office and see what I can find out on this and post more later today or in the AM.

Miss T.C. Shore said...

After I posted, I went back and re-read his reply. He does NOT claim in his letter that members of congress will be covered by the ObamaKare/Medicaid system, bur rather that members of Congress will be covered by FEHBP, which (as I understand it) contracts with several outside, private insurance programs (such as Blue Cross) to provide employees with insurance.

His response actually looks very much like a "form letter" created to answer the TYPE of question that you asked, but not necessarily the specific question. It probably was written by a mid- to high- level aid, and does not look to me like an attempt to "muddy" the issue. Rather, it looks more like an attempt to create a "standard" answer that can be used to respond to hundreds or thousands of inquiries.

I don't know about Vern Ehlers, so I hesitate to judge whether or not he is a "straight shooter", but this looks like a pretty "up-front" response, although you have to know a little bit about the differences between government employee insurance and government-funded insurance entitlements to really understand exactly what he is saying.

Chuck said...

AOW, I did wonder that about the question marks. Just thought it was weird.

As far as the proposed bill, why do they have a new one if they are already mandated to get the new insurance.

Shoprat, you nailed it. I have always thought these bills could be a LOT shorter.

Brooke, if anything, we will pay for their coverage

Mustang, we have essentially developed a ruling class in the US. We are the commoners

TC, this is my point, they should have to live by every law we do. Period, no exceptions.

Ticker, thanks for the clarification. I think what makes me mad is they would even have to do this. It should be done to begin with

TC, I was never under any illusion that he wrote the letter himself. If anything, I gave them credit for a letter that was so detailed.

LomaAlta said...

I doubt that Congress will ever give up their gravy train on healthcare. If there are amendments or revisions to Obamacare in the future, I would like it to force all public employees from the president to your local city council to local police and fire to have the same healthcare the "reform" gave the rest of America. No White House doctors, no presidential doctors, just a waiting line down on K street for Obama et. al.

Chuck said...

LomaAlta, agreed. Le the Congressional members go to the Emergency Room

Ticker said...

Chuck and all. Congressman Burgess of North Texas has submitted a bill that will require all members of Congress and the President to fall under the Health Care legislation.

Last night(March 26th) Congressman Michael C. Burgess, M.D. (R-Texas), Chairman of the Congressional Health Care Caucus, introduced H.R. 4951, which would fix the loophole that exempted certain staff, as well as Administration officials, from participating in the exchanges created by the Democrats’ flawed health care bill. Burgess’ bill, which has 26 original co-sponsors, including Republican Leader John Boehner, requires participation by the President, Vice President, political appointees, all Members of Congress, and all Congressional staff, including committee and leadership staff. You can read more on Congressman Burgess website: http://burgess.house.gov/

Chuck said...

Ticker, thanks for the update. Now the GOP needs to get this out to the public. Either make the Dems pass it, or explain why they didn't in the fall.