WASHINGTON (AP) — Some Republicans believe Congress should be one of the employers that eliminates group health benefits and has its employees to pay the full cost of exchange coverage.
One condition that Republicans proposed in a measure that could have averted a partial government shutdown would have eliminated government payments for the “employer share” of health premiums for members of Congress, congressional aides, presidential appointees, and the president and the vice president.
The proposal could have affected about 18,000 people.
The Democratic-controlled Senate rejected the measure Monday night, an hour after the House passed it.
The government now pays about three-fourths of federal workers’ health insurance premiums. House Republicans would end that contribution by amending the Senate’s temporary spending bill.
The Obama administration currrent position is that members of Congress and staffers in Washington will have to get their health coverage from the District of Columbia small-group exchange, but that the government will pay the same percentage of the premium for single workers as if the workers were getting their coverage from the federal employees’ plan. The government would also pay a comparable share of the cost for dependent coverage.
For many federal employees, implementing the Republican proposal would mean a pay cut of up to $11,000. The Congressional Budget Office estimates the GOP’s proposal would save the government about $1 billion over a decade.
“This is a matter of funding the government and providing fairness to the American people,” said House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. “Why wouldn’t members of Congress vote for it?”
It wasn’t clear Boehner’s own GOP caucus was united on the amendment. “There’s not complete unanimity in there,” said one supporter of the plan, Rep. Scott Rigell, R-Va.
Even before the House took this new whack at the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), Senate Democrats rejected it as a condition for keeping the government in operating funds past midnight Monday. Majority Leader Harry Reid said a government shutdown could be avoided only if the GOP-controlled House passed a budget “clean” of any such amendments. Later in the day, President Barack Obama issued a veto threat, calling the amendment the product of a “narrow ideological agenda (that) threatens the nation’s economy.”
“They’re spinning their wheels,” Reid told reporters as the clock ticked toward midnight. “We are not going to change Obamacare.”