Guy Benson | November 22, 2013
Veteran House Democratic aides are sick over the insurance prices they’ll pay under Obamacare, and they’re scrambling to find a cure.
“In a shock to the system, the older staff in my office (folks over 59) have now found out their personal health insurance costs (even with the government contribution) have gone up 3-4 times what they were paying before,” Minh Ta, chief of staff to Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.), wrote to fellow Democratic chiefs of staff in an email message obtained by POLITICO.
“Simply unacceptable.” In the email, Ta noted that older congressional staffs may leave their jobs because of the change to their health insurance.
Under the Affordable Care Act, and federal regulations, many congressional staffers — designated as “official” aides — were forced to move out of the old heavily subsidized Federal Employees Health Benefits program and into the District of Columbia’s health insurance marketplace exchange. Others designated as “unofficial” were allowed to stay in the FEHB program.
Welcome to the Obamacare party, people who helped their bosses foist this monstrosity upon an unwilling public. Many of these legislative aides are now saddled with much higher — “unacceptable!” — health costs, now that they’re fending for themselves on DC’s Obamacare exchange. There’s a reason why poll after poll shows the president and his healthcare law plummeting to new lows; it’s somewhat comforting to know that at least some people on Capitol Hill aren’t insulated from the fallout. That said, it is most unfortunate that Republican staffers are living through the same tribulations thanks to a law they’ve fought tooth-and-nail from day one. Beyond the spiking costs for individuals and families, taxpayers are on the hook for an avalanche of new government spending because of Obamacare. One item on that list is the cost of fixing the broken websites, which had already cost $1.6 billion by the launch date ($600 billion for Healthcare.gov, and more than $1 billion for the state exchanges). Since 30 to 40 percent of the federal site is still being built, with massive repair efforts underway across the country, that price tag will swell immensely. Government experts can’t say how much it will cost just yet, but outside observers are confident it will be a lot:
Technology experts say healing what ails the Healthcare.gov website will be a tougher task than the Obama administration acknowledges. “It’s going to cost a lot of tax dollars to get this done,” says Bill Curtis, senior vice president and chief scientist at CAST, a French software analysis company with offices in the U.S. Curtis says programmers and systems analysts start fixing troubled websites by addressing the glitches they can see. But based on his analysis of the site, he believes the ongoing repairs are likely to reveal even deeper problems, making it tough to predict when all the site’s issues will be resolved.
In an interesting twist, one of the few elements of Healthcare.gov that was not catastrophically broken was the so-called “anonymous shopper” browsing function, wherein potential consumers could check and compare rates. Obamacare’s IT chief testified under oath that this element of the website was scrapped because it failed so terribly in testing that they couldn’t in good conscience roll it out to the public (this is the same guy who admitted that at least one-third of the web system still isn’t built). But a CNN exclusive reveals that the “anonymous shopper” function actually passed its pre-launch test, raising questions about whether Henry Chao committed perjury. If this portion of the Obamacare web experience was working fine technologically, why would they jettison it? It’s pretty simple, really — sticker shock, and pure politics:
The laws’ supporters and enforcers don’t want you to know that, because it would violate the President’s incessantly repeated promise that nothing would change for the people that Obamacare doesn’t directly help. If you shop for Obamacare-based coverage without knowing if you qualify for subsidies, you might be discouraged by the law’s steep costs. So, by analyzing your income first, if you qualify for heavy subsidies, the website can advertise those subsidies to you instead of just hitting you with Obamacare’s steep premiums.
The premium and out-of-pocket costs were going to look so steep, the administration chose to hide those numbers from the public until after people had logged on and gotten a sense of how much taxpayer assistance they’d receive to help pay for the costly coverage. They tossed out one of the few working elements of their website rollout to spare themselves the humiliation of another major broken promise, then lied about it to Congress.