Congress Denies Secret Obamacare Exemption Negotiations

Congressional Democrats have denied a report that they were trying to avoid being covered by Obamacare, a.k.a. the Affordable Care Act, because of insurance premium increases.

According to the Politico report, confidential, “extremely sensitive” negotiations were taking place on Capitol Hill between Democrats and Republicans to find a way for lawmakers and their staffs to gain an exemption from Obamacare without the public blasting Democrats in particular for being hypocrites. The alleged bipartisan negotiations for opting out of Obamacare developed out of concern over big insurance cost hikes when so-called healthcare reform goes into implementation as of January 1, 2014.

Obamacare narrowly passed Congress on a straight party-line vote. No Republican voted in favor of the bill.

“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… Plus, lawmakers — especially those with long careers in public service and smaller bank accounts — are also concerned about the hit to their own wallets.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D – Nev.) has denied the report that Congress was trying to gift itself an Obamacare waiver. A spokesman for the senator had this to say about the opt-out controversy:

“There are not now, have never been, nor will there ever be any discussions about exempting members of Congress or Congressional staff from Affordable Care Act provisions that apply to any employees of any other public or private employer offering health care.”

Republicans from Speaker of the House John Beohner on down vowed that they wouldn’t play ball with any attempt to carve out an Obamacare exemption Congress anyway. For example, US Sen. Lindsey Graham said that “Obamacare is a train wreck. Congress shouldn’t be able to get out of Obamacare until everyone else does.” Graham was echoing the comments of Sen. Max Baucus (D – Mont.) who in a public hearing recently described Obamacare as a “huge train wreck coming down.”

Congressional Democrats are very concerned about the sticker shock of Obamacare generally according to a separate news report. “Democrats in both houses of Congress said some members of their party were getting nervous that they could pay a political price if the rollout of the law was messy or if premiums went up significantly.”

In an Op-Ed this week, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R – Ky.), the Senate minority leader, wrote that President Obama should deliver a major speech to level with the American people about Obamacare. “The president must step into the breach and explain to the public that skyrocketing premiums and a raft of new taxes, penalties and fees are coming their way.”

Would it surprise you that the US Congress was behind the scenes trying to opt out of Obamacare?