Sen. Sessions Takes Subsidy to Buy Insurance on Obamacare Exchange
(CNSNews.com) – Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), whose congressional salary is $174,000 a year, said he has purchased health insurance on the District of Columbia small business Obamacare exchange, and will accept a taxpayer-funded subsidy to help him pay for that insurance.
“I will accept the subsidy, although it’s going to be considerably more expensive for me,” Sessions said.
Under the Affordable Care Act, private citizens who buy their health insurance in an Obamacare exchange can only get a federal subsidy if their income is less than 400 percent of the poverty level--a level of income that is currently $94,200 for a family of four.
However, as CNSNews.com has reported, a regulation issued by the Office of Personnel Management allows members of Congress, even though they are paid $174,000 per year, to get an "employer contribution" from the U.S. Treasury when they buy a health insurance plan in the exchange set up for small businesses in Washington, D.C.
That "employer contribution"--paid out of the U.S. Treasury--can run up to $11,378 per year for a family plan.
CNSNews.com said to Sessions at the Capitol on Wednesday:"I wanted to ask you if you've signed up for a health plan through the D.C. exchange?"
“I did,” Sessions said.
CNSNews.com then asked:"And will you be accepting the subsidy that goes along with that?"
Sessions responded: “I will accept the subsidy, although it’s going to be considerably more expensive for me."
CNSNews.com asked: "Why do you think it's the right thing to do to accept that subsidy? Some people are criticizing that?
Sessions: "I opposed the bill from the beginning, but this is the health--this is a--for me, even with the subsidy that we've had before which they've ruled is proper...the Office of Personnel Management said it was appropriate to, in effect, continue the subsidy that we had, which is what we’ve always had. But in addition I would say that it will cost members--most members--more.”
The Affordable Care Act said that the only health insurance plans the federal government can make available to Members of Congress and congressional staff as federal employees are health plans created by the Affordable Care Act or offered through an exchange established by the Act.
As CNSNews.com has reported, some lawmakers say they have refused the tax-funded "employer contribution" the the OPM regulation allows them--and that private citizens at a similar income level would not get to buy an Obamacare plan.
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) sponsored the amendment to Obamacare that says the only plans the federal government can make available to members of Congress are those created under Obamacare or in the Obamacare exchanges. "“My goal, regardless of how the amendment was worded … was that we [in Congress] need to go into the exchange so that we would have to go through the same red tape as every other citizen,” Grassley told Roll Call in September.
Grassley also told Roll Call that he never intended for members of Congress to lose their health insurance subsidy, but in drafting the amendment, Sen. Harry Reid's staffers omitted the relevant language.