U.S. Senator Charles Schumer
SLOAN, N.Y. - You may have heard reports that Congress recently granted some exemptions from the Affordable Care Act, or "Obamacare," for itself and its staff.
Tuesday, 2 On Your Side spoke to Charles Schumer, who is New York's Senior U.S. Senator, about what happened.
On the surface, it seems like another example of Congress making rules for everyone and then exempting itself from those rules. But that's not entirely true here.
Obamacare requires states to set up so-called health care exchanges, where people who do not get health insurance through work can go to purchase insurance. The government will give subsidies to people to buy the insurance based on need. As part of that bill, Congress also required all of its members and their staff to start purchasing their health insurance from those exchanges starting this fall instead of getting a health plan through work.
But Congress recently voted to make changes to that requirement.
REPORTER: Why exactly has Congress exempted itself and its staff?
SCHUMER: That is not true. Starting in October, I will have to join a health exchange like everyone else. So will all of my staff. So actually, the rules that were set up are to have people join those exchanges to be treated the same as everyone else, and that's how it should be. I voted for that.
What did Congress change? Taxpayers will be paying for 75% of the insurance premiums for members of Congress and their staffers. While that sounds like special treatment, Congress, after all, is their employer. Consequently, it's actually no different than an employer contributing to the health insurance of its employees. The initial bill did not provide any contribution for them.
Simply put, under the new change to Obamacare, the government is going to contribute to the cost of health insurance for members of Congress and their staffers, which the government already does. The only difference is that they'll buy insurance through those exchanges, instead of having a plan through work.