WASHINGTON — Under a forthcoming fix from the Obama administration, U.S. taxpayers will continue paying for most of the health-benefit costs for members of Congress and their aides who are being marshaled into new insurance exchanges.
Lawmakers and congressional employees have been sounding the alarm that they could be forced to pay thousands more, picking up the tab themselves. In the past, the federal government chipped in about 75 percent. That sparked concerns that the best and the brightest might flee Capitol Hill rather than losing a benefit on which they and their families depend.
Under new regulations the Obama administration will release next week, the government will keep paying its share and that scenario will be averted.
The latest hitch in the rollout of the health-care law was prompted by an amendment from Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley that forced senators, representatives and congressional employees to buy insurance through new exchanges, rather than the federal benefit system most government employees use. The idea was to force lawmakers backing the bill to have a personal stake in the outcome.
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But until now, there was no clear mechanism for the government to contribute its part of employees’ premiums through the exchanges.
The fix came at the request of Democratic and Republican lawmakers, the Obama administration said. But officials have declined to say how deeply Obama was involved.
Lawmakers and staffers won’t be eligible for tax credits that low-income Americans can get to purchase insurance through the exchanges, designed to get millions more Americans enrolled in health care. Obama will start getting his insurance through the exchanges, a White House official said, adding that the administration also supports requiring Cabinet secretaries and White House staff to enroll.
The House, meanwhile, in its last action before the five-week summer recess, took another jab at the health-care law Friday, voting to bar the Internal Revenue Service from enforcing or carrying out any provision of the law.
The bill, approved by a vote of 232-185, now goes to the Senate, where it has virtually no chance of approval. Obama said he would veto the measure if it got to him.
The House has voted 40 times, by Republican counts, to repeal or roll back some or all of the 2010 law, which is expected to provide coverage to 25 million people who lack health insurance.
Under the law, the IRS will play a key role. It will provide tax credits to low- and moderate-income people to help them buy private insurance. It can impose penalties on people who go without insurance and on larger employers that fail to offer coverage to full-time employees.
Material from The New York Times
is included in this report.