Lawmakers Upset with PPACA as It Applies to Them

Today’s NYT had an amusing story about how members of Congress and their staffs are concerned about a provision in the PPACA that requires them to obtain insurance through exchanges because, among other things, it will require a substantial increase in out-of-pocket costs.

Under a wrinkle that dates back to enactment of the law, members of Congress and thousands of their aides are required to get their coverage through new state-based markets known as insurance exchanges.

But the law does not provide any obvious way for the federal government to continue paying its share of the premiums for the comprehensive coverage.

If the government cannot do so, it could mean an additional expense of $5,000 a year for individuals and $11,000 for families under some of the most popular plans.

Not surprisingly, that idea is unpopular on Capitol Hill. . . .

With the exchanges scheduled to open in just nine weeks, the Obama administration is struggling to come up with a creative interpretation of the health care law that would allow the federal government to kick in for insurance as private employers do, but so far an answer has proved elusive.

The issue is politically charged because the White House and Congress are highly sensitive to any suggestion that lawmakers or their aides are getting special treatment under the health law. The administration is already under fire from Republicans for delaying a requirement that larger businesses offer insurance to their full-time employees.

The article also provides a useful reminder that what became the PPACA was a draft bill that its supporters never intended to become law. The Senate-passed health care reform bill was intended to serve as the Senate’s contribution to a House-Senate conference that would iron out all the final details. Yet after Scott Brown was elected to the Senate, the Democrats lost their filibuster-proof majority and had to use the Senate bill as the basis for the final law. From the NYT account:

Representative Diana DeGette, Democrat of Colorado, said the Senate was responsible for the provision requiring lawmakers and many aides to get insurance in the exchanges.

“We had to take the Senate version of the health care bill,” Ms. DeGette said. “This is not anything we spent time talking about here in the House.”

Another House Democrat, speaking on condition of anonymity, said, “This was a stupid provision that never should have gotten into the law.”

Because the Senate bill was used as the basis for the PPACA, and only subject to limited reconciliation amendments, there are quite a few provisions were enacted that were not what health care reform supporters wanted. (This likely explains the language at issue with the IRS tax credit rule too.) The problem is that intentions are not law, and if Congress passes an imperfect or ill-conceived statute, it’s still the law of the land.