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Staffers may be exempt from health bill

Marketplace Staff Mar 24, 2010
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Staffers may be exempt from health bill

Marketplace Staff Mar 24, 2010
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TEXT OF INTERVIEW

Kai Ryssdal: As long as we’re on the health care bill, it’s worth a mention that at 2,300-something pages long, we are still finding out exactly what’s in the thing. Yesterday it was that bit about chain restaurants having to post calorie counts for all their menu items. Today, it’s who on Capitol Hill is covered by the changes in the law and who is not. Erika Lovley had the story in Politico this morning. Erika, it’s good to have you with us.

Erika Lovley: Thanks. Good to be with you.

Ryssdal: So explain this to me. What’s going on here?

LOVLEY: So basically this is a carve out in the health care bill that creates a two-tiered system for congressional staffers. Some staffers that work for some of the upper-level offices like leadership or on the committees are getting the option of keeping their old health insurance. Whereas other staffers that work for personal offices actually have to go, like the rest of America, and get their insurance under President Obama’s new law. It was originally thought that everyone was going to be covered under the president’s health insurance plan, but it looks like from the legislation that that’s not the case.

Ryssdal: Yeah, and as we heard many times during this debate, Congress has a pretty good health plan, right?

LOVLEY: Yeah, they do. And that’s one point that staffers are bringing up. There’s not necessarily any reason why they would want to give it up.

Ryssdal: So just to clarify here. Let’s say somebody works for Nancy Pelosi as speaker of the House, a leadership role, she could conceivably keep her coverage, that staffer. But a staffer who works for Nancy Pelosi representative from San Francisco would have to jump into the exchange, right?

LOVLEY: That’s right. And that’s where the difference lies. Essentially those personal office staffers, the people that are really keeping the congressional office going would have to jump into the exchange, but the people who have the perkier jobs, basically, the ones that are working on committees or if they’re working for the leadership office, that could be House Minority Leader Boehner or anyone else, would get this option. Essentially the staffers are upset because the feeling up here really is that, you know, if you’re going to help produce legislation, you really should have to live by it.

Ryssdal: And do you think it’s an accident that the committee staffers that helped write the law get to keep their insurance?

LOVLEY: You know at this point, that’s really unclear. You know, speaking to staffers in Pelosi’s office they essentially said that, yes, they do realize that the committee staffers are exempt, but as far as why that happened, it’s not really clear. They’re not talking about it. But I can assure that in the coming weeks Republicans are certainly going to probably press them further to get more details on that. In fact, Senator Grassley just last night introduced an amendment to the bill that would cause all staffers on the congressional level, all members of Congress, and even White House officials, so that would be the president, the vice president, to also be covered under the exchange. So again, it’s kind of hitting home that point. If you make a law, if you make legislation, you should have to live by it.

Ryssdal: Erika Lovley covers Congress for Politico. Erika, thanks so much.

LOVLEY: Thank you.

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