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Congressional Health Benefits Could Soon Change

By Ed O'Keefe

Senators debating health-care reform legislation have unanimously approved a proposal requiring members of Congress and their staffs to obtain health insurance through new state-based purchasing exchanges set up by the health-care reform bill under consideration. Lawmakers and their staffs could no longer buy health insurance through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program beginning in 2013 if the proposal survives the final health-care bill passed by Congress.

Sarah Palin
Sens. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), two members of the Senate Finance Committee.

The Senate Finance Committee approved the amendment introduced by Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) Tuesday night, just hours after the government announced an average 8.8 percent increase in the cost of health insurance provided through FEHBP.

It's a watered-down version of Grassley's original proposal, which would have effectively ended FEHBP by requiring all federal government employees to seek health care through their home state exchanges. Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) modified the proposal, making the FEHBP an option for all federal employees, but Grassley changed it again and proposed the amendment approved last night.

Currently all full- and part-time employees of the executive, judicial and legislative branches and the Postal Service are eligible to enroll in FEHBP.

Regardless of Tuesday's approval, it's unclear if the bill will survive a full Senate vote or the final House-Senate compromise.

“The more that Congress experiences the laws we pass, the better the laws are likely to be,” Grassley said during debate.

“My interest in having Members of Congress participate in the exchange is consistent with my long-held view that Congress should live under the same laws it passes for the rest of the country."

Nancy Kichak, the associate director of the Office of Personnel Management who oversees FEHBP, said her staff remains focused on operating the program no matter the ongoing Congressional debate.

"We right now are focused on taking care of our business and our folks who are covered. We’re not following that debate," she said Tuesday.

The new exchange model under consideration by the Finance Committee is modeled on FEHBP and would give participants options similar to those offered to federal employees.

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

Read The Post's Health-Care Reform coverage for more updates

By Ed O'Keefe  | September 30, 2009; 2:27 PM ET
Categories:  Congress, Health Care, Workplace Issues  
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Comments

So, our Congressional staff can still engage in insider stock trading, which put even Martha Stewart in prison, but has to "tough it out" with health insurance?

No OSHA, no FBI search warrants allowed, no compliance with labor law.

But, hey, this is REALLY gonna bring up that approval rating. Right.

Posted by: georgieporgie2 | September 30, 2009 3:38 PM | Report abuse

does anyone out there know a truly honest politican in washington?i have never met the 2 senators that represent my state,but both have been accused of some pretty bad thing in their campaigns.i do personally know and have had buisness dealings with one member congress from my state i no longer live in[his or her] district,when my wife and i retired we downzied and move to different district.having known this congress person for 20+ years i can say with some comfort that{he she]is a likable perso but would prostitute theirself,their spouse or children to stay in the us. congress.steal,cheat i am not sure low this person would go its really an obsession to be in the congress.

Posted by: donaldtucker | September 30, 2009 4:32 PM | Report abuse

So much for the promise of keeping our present plan if we're satisfied with it. In one short amendment Grassley has broken the President's promise to about 3 million people. And does that mean that he doesn't get to use military facilities for his health care?

Posted by: rhcashin | September 30, 2009 4:38 PM | Report abuse

Until Senate and House representatives, as well as their staff, Federal employees et al have to "experience the laws we [sic] pass" the laws you are about to create are unfair systems. Mr. Grassley, please pass laws that you, too, have to adhere to.

Posted by: pv2bdrco | September 30, 2009 5:37 PM | Report abuse

Donald,
I know both my Senators and my representative. I would trust my representative with my life. He is one of the most intelligent, honest, and down to earth people I know. He votes for what he believes is best for his constituents and when advised that it might hurt him politically, his response is "So be it."

The problem is that the staffers and the lobbyists actually run the place. They are entrenched and know the game much better than our elected officials. Unfortunately, our elected officials are human and as such cannot process all of the information coming at them, no matter how smart they are. Ultimately they have to rely on the people that work for them. Many get their start as partonage appointments and then become entrenched, moving from Congressional office to Congressional office.

That's not to say there aren't some members of Congress that are interested solely in their own positions, but many are trying to do the right the thing.

The people that elect these individuals are also to blame. The longer they are there, the more cynical they become. Polls have shown that people dislike Congress, but like their own guy/gal, so they stay forever and ever, growing ever more powerful, cynical and full of themselves.

Posted by: vmi98mom | September 30, 2009 5:38 PM | Report abuse

vmi98mom.thanks. and you are right. people keep voting them in. in a lot of cases the opposing party cant get anyone to run against them because they are so entrenched.

Posted by: donaldtucker | September 30, 2009 6:02 PM | Report abuse

Grassley is a liar and a crook. He has proven it for 20 years.

The people of Iowa are going to cancel his free meal ticket in the next election.

Sad as he is, he is the best of the sorry GOP. Sad, sorry people.

Posted by: COWENS99 | September 30, 2009 8:10 PM | Report abuse

We need to change out our congressional representatives at least every two terms (four years). That should keep the lobbyist really busy and broke! There should be no return after one stay as a representative, and no possibility of running for a Senate position. This will limit the damage the crooks can do as well as keeping congress in a turmoil; limiting the damage they can do and stopping their lifetime retirement program. I am a registered Libertarian and truly believe our government is too large and totally out of control!

Posted by: 312capri | September 30, 2009 10:34 PM | Report abuse


Seems to me I heard that Congress voted themselves a 6% budget increase today. Where's that story, WaPo?

Do as I say, not as I do.

Posted by: waterfrontproperty | September 30, 2009 11:21 PM | Report abuse

It's the staffers who are getting the shaft on this. Senators and representatives can still pay $500 per year for the Office of the Attending Physician, which gives them gold-plated care. Staffers are not eligible, of course.

Luckily for the staffers, the majority of them are young and move to other jobs in a few years, but they are definitely not going to be happy that they're getting kicked out of the FEHBP and still not eligible for the Office of the Attending Physician.

Posted by: WashingtonDame | October 1, 2009 11:33 AM | Report abuse

In what media accounts are casting as a serious setback for President Barack Obama and lawmakers who back the "public option," the Senate Finance Committee Tuesday voted against including the provision in the bill. Reports also remark on GOP unity against the provision, which they compare to the Democratic split apparent in Tuesday's committee votes. Where I am a health insurance agent with www.benefitsmanager.net/SelectHealth.html . I find this frustrating somewhat. I don’t agree with the design of the “public option” where it works against a health system in place now and causes a financial burden on tax payers. But, I think we need one out there. I need the ability to get my clients a insurance policy that won’t decline them for pre-existing medical conditions. See Utah’s response to health care reform and health insurance reform. www.prweb.com/releases/utah_health_insurance/health_care_reform/prweb2614544.htm.
Perhaps the feds should look at the only second state case attempt for reform as a model. What about TORT reform? That honestly impacts doctor insurance costs as well as health insurance premiums by 13% See study in prior link.

Posted by: mikeoliphant | October 1, 2009 12:32 PM | Report abuse

Grassley and others in Congress can afford whatever is offered in their state. Not all Federal employees/retirees have their income. "Charles Grassley, R-Iowa: $1016024 ... His net worth is estimated at between $15.1 million and $42.3 million."

Posted by: turtletrot11 | October 1, 2009 9:42 PM | Report abuse

In what media accounts are casting as a serious setback for President Barack Obama and lawmakers who back the "public option," the Senate Finance Committee Tuesday voted against including the provision in the bill. Reports also remark on GOP unity against the provision, which they compare to the Democratic split apparent in Tuesday's committee votes. Where I am a health insurance agent with www.benefitsmanager.net/SelectHealth.html . I find this frustrating somewhat. I don’t agree with the design of the “public option” where it works against a health system in place now and causes a financial burden on tax payers. But, I think we need one out there. I need the ability to get my clients a insurance policy that won’t decline them for pre-existing medical conditions. See Utah’s response to health care reform and health insurance reform. www.prweb.com/releases/utah_health_insurance/health_care_reform/prweb2614544.htm.
Perhaps the feds should look at the only second state case attempt for reform as a model. What about TORT reform? That honestly impacts doctor insurance costs as well as health insurance premiums by 13% See study in prior link.

Posted by: mikeoliphant | October 2, 2009 6:21 PM | Report abuse

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