Sen. David Vitter

Are lawmakers and their personal staffs “exempt” from Obamacare, as some conservative critics are saying?

Well, not exactly. Members of Congress and their staffs must be enrolled in the Obamacare exchange plans effective January 1, 2014. Under Section 1312 (D) of the Affordable Care Act, they can no longer get their health coverage through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP), the largest group health insurance program in the world. Because they lost their FEHBP coverage, they also lost their generous FEHBP subsidy, amounting to roughly $5,000 for individual coverage, and more than $10,000 for family coverage. Just like ordinary Americans who lose their employer–based health insurance, Congress and staff would only be eligible for the exchanges’ income –related subsidies.

How did this happen? During the 2010 debate on the Senate version of Obamacare, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid inserted language that Congress and staff would henceforth have to get their insurance in the Obamacare exchanges and would thus be ineligible to purchase coverage through the FEHBP.