There is a recent internet meme-run-amok being promulgated by the conservative propagandist Freedom Works that cries, “Demand The Same Protection From Obamacare Congress Gets!” This particular meme caught my eye due to the delicious irony in it's completely disingenuous protest. Over the past several years, since passage of the Affordable Care Act, I've been bombarded with complaints from my right leaning friends over Congress exempting itself from Obamacare. While quite the opposite was true, this became a popular lie among conservatives nonetheless.
You see, Congressmen and women, and their staffs, have always been covered under the same health insurance plan as any federal employee. This plan functions just like any other employer health plan. Federal employees pay for a portion of their premiums (about 25%) and their employer, in this case the federal government, pays the rest just like any other large employer. Obamacare primarily effects the private insurance market so federal employees (including Congress) should have seen little change, just like any other employee.
Now here is where the irony lies. Republican Senator Chuck Grassley (Iowa), pandering to the Tea Party town hall screamers, stuck a provision into Obamacre decreeing that all of Congress, staffs included, must now purchase their health insurance through one of the private insurance market exchanges created by Obamacare. There is zero logic behind this provision as Congress would have been covered under the parts of Obamacare that effect the employer health insurance market just like any other employee. In other words, federal employees would have been covered under Obamacare even without Grassley's ill conceived provision.
This creates a problem for these particular federal employees since the feds portion of their insurance premium is part of their overall compensation plan. Grassley's provision is the equivalent of a $7,500 (give or take) cut in pay. Imagine your employer announcing tomorrow they would no longer offer group health insurance and you were on your own. Keep in mind that your employer is most likely paying between 65 and 75 percent of your health insurance premium. That $250 a month you're paying suddenly just became $1000, or possibly much more based on your individual situation. While most of us wouldn't mind docking Congress' pay, it hardly seems fair to all of the receptionists and administrative assistants that make up their staffs. To rectify this the federal government has agreed to subsidize 75% of the premiums for Congress and their staffs in the private market just as they were in their employer market plan. This whole dog and pony show was totally unnecessary and rather stupid. It will likely end up costing taxpayers more in the long run and was wholly the product of Congressional Republicans.
The funny thing is, Grassley's provision went entirely unnoticed until a few weeks back when Congressional staffers and their bosses realized they had been screwed and that their cost of living was soon to increase dramatically. After all, Congress' avoidance of Obamacre, which turned out to be hilariously untrue, had been a major selling point for it's repeal. Ah, but after the feds stepped in to rectify an obviously unfair situation the too-clever-by-half folks at Freedom Works saw an opportunity to once again mangle the truth in service to their wealthy corporate sponsors.
Freedom Works' intentions have been
clear from the start. They were the primary funders behind the Tea
Party movement and have since supplied them with a steady diet of
lies designed to undermine not only Obamacare but America's faith in
the very government that we are all participants in. They count on
the gullibility and racial animus of a large base of their
supporters to convince them to vote against their own best
interests. It never ceases to amaze me how conservatives like to
label liberals as sheep when they're the ones with the wool over their eyes.