The problem stems from whether members and aides set to enter the exchanges would have their health insurance premiums subsidized by their employer—in this case, the federal government. If not, aides and lawmakers in both parties fear that staffers—especially low-paid junior aides—could be hit with thousands of dollars in new health care costs, prompting them to seek jobs elsewhere. Older, more senior staffers could also retire or jump to the private sector rather than face a big financial penalty […]Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) said if OPM decides that the federal government doesn’t pick up “the 75 percent that they have been, then put yourself in the position of a lot of entry-level staff people who make $25,000 a year, and all of a sudden, they have a $7,000 a year health care tab? That would be devastating.”
Some pols, like Rep. Henry Waxman, think the concern over cost hikes is overblown. He claims the federal government will subsidize the health care plans used by lawmakers and aides and nobody will have to pay anything more than they already have been. Other commentators are claiming that the Politico story drastically mischaracterizes the situation, and that “exemption” isn’t the right word to use here. The mass confusion on the Hill about whether costs will even go up, or whether this counts as an exemption or not, is perhaps the icing on the cake of this already gobsmacking story.In sum, Congress has been stuck in months-long conversations about how to carefully protect itself from potential cost increases we poor saps might suffer because of a law our lawmakers apparently did not read. What a magnificent piece of legislation!Too bad the rest of the country can’t exempt itself.