11/21/13, "Older aides see O-Care costs eat checks," The Hill, By Amie Parnes and Elise Viebeck
"Older congressional staff say their out-of-pocket healthcare costs
will rise three or four times after they enter the ObamaCare insurance
The economic shock has led Democratic chiefs of staff
to call for changing the rules so that their staffers won’t take the
chiefs of staff have expressed support for a change that would allow
congressional offices to re-classify their workers as non-official staff
so that they can avoid the higher costs.
“Simply unaffordable,” Minh
Ta, chief of staff to Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.), wrote in an email to
fellow Democratic chiefs of staff on Thursday afternoon.
email, sent to other House Democratic chiefs of staff, said staffers
above the age of 59 felt a “shock to the system” upon seeing plan prices
on the District of Columbia's new insurance marketplace.
At issue are employees designated as “official office staff.” That designation placed them in D.C.’s ObamaCare marketplace....
is not widely known is that, under guidance from the chief
administrative officer of the House, offices had discretion about
whether to classify their workers as “official staff” or “unofficial
Workers designated as official must obtain healthcare on
the exchanges, while those designated as unofficial are allowed to keep
their federal employee plans.
Lawmakers got guidance about the designations, they complained, just days before the deadline for making decisions on Oct. 31. In
his e-mail, Ta noted that it was difficult for congressional staff to
see how much they would pay for coverage on D.C.'s exchange before
While prices for plans were available on the site
starting in October, there was no tool for calculating how much the
federal government subsidy would make a difference, sources said.
also said they were discouraged from accessing the site until Nov. 1,
just after the Oct. 31 deadline for submitting their staff
classifications. The enrollment period for Congress is Nov. 11 through
Ta wrote that House administrators are refusing to allow him to change workers' designation until next year.
“I am asking for a solution now though because I will lose staff in my office because of this snafu,” Ta wrote in his email.
mentioned to payroll and House [administration] that it was unfair for
our offices to make this designation without allowing our staff the
ability [to] actually go on the [marketplace] to compare rates.”
Asked about the e-mail, Ta said that the office is “not trying to blame anybody," especially the White House. The
frustration, he explained, is that his office and others are
dissatisfied that lawmakers and staff are being treated differently than
other federal employees.
“We’re strong, strong supporters of the [Affordable Care Act],” said Moore’s press secretary, Staci Moore.
offices on Capitol Hill said they're fearful of workers leaving due to
the changes in health insurance. Members of both parties have repeatedly
warned that top talent could lose if healthcare benefits are
“Obviously staff turnover’s a concern,” one
Democratic aide said. “We’re losing one staffer, for reasons you could
say are related to this.”
One staffer familiar with the
controversy said it's possible that lawmakers could reclassify their
workers through creative means, like firing and then rehiring them....
Both Ta and another chief
of staff expressed hopes that House offices would be able reverse their
decisions to name employees as "official office staff," which places
them in D.C.'s ObamaCare marketplace.
“Our office supports
allowing re-designation. We agree,” wrote Glenn Everett Rushing, who
works for Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas).
The treatment of lawmakers and their staff have been controversial for some time."...via Free Rep.