McConnell will sign up for insurance through health exchange and wants to donate federal contribution

12/04/2013 09:08 PM

Kentucky U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell will be signing up for his health coverage through the Washington, D.C., health exchange set up through the Affordable Care Act, and he says he will donate any federal contribution to charity.

But is it that simple?

The language of the Affordable Care Act requires that all members of Congress and their staff get their insurance coverage through an outlet created by the law, i.e. a health exchange. That part of the law was offered by Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa.

However, as CNN explains , the law lets congressional leaders decide whether their leadership office staffers — as opposed to staff members on their state staffs — hold on to their federal employee insurance plans instead of going through the exchange. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has exercised the option to let them stay with their federal government coverage. That was a point of criticism from former McConnell Chief of Staff Josh Holmes on Wednesday.

Holmes tweeted:

And it is true that McConnell and all members of his staff will go on to the exchange. Reid is the only one of the four party leaders in Congress not to do so — something for which McConnell’s team has criticized Reid.

“Sen. McConnell will not remain on the federal employee health plan and none of the McConnell staff will be designated to stay in it either,” McConnell spokesman Robert Steurer said in a statement to Pure Politics. “Unlike Democrats who are trying to convince Americans that the government exchanges are great but not participating in them, the Senator is not exempting himself or his staff from the exchanges.”

But McConnell’s office could not confirm details to Pure Politics about what exactly McConnell will be donating to charity.

The word subsidy doesn’t exactly describe what McConnell would be giving away.

The way the exchange works for members of Congress and their staffs is similar to the way a private insurance company operates — paying a certain percentage of the health care costs each month for the individual.

For instance, when a congressional staffer logs on to the exchange website, she would see the different plans she could choose from. But unlike an uninsured person seeking coverage through the exchange, a congressional staffer would not be offered any subsidies. After all, the federal government is their employer.

As the employer, the federal government will cover 75 percent of the cost of the staffer’s monthly premium bill up to $426.14 per month, according to the United States Office of Personnel Management.


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