- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 8, 2013

Mila Kofman, chief of the D.C. health exchange set up under President Obama’s health care law, said Thursday she is “thrilled” to be able to serve members of Congress and staff members who are forced to use the state-based insurance markets because of a provision in the law.

She welcomed the denizens of Capitol Hill to the city’s exchange one day after the Office of Personnel Management released a proposed rule that says the government can keep contributing to health care premiums of members of Congress and their staffers even as they purchase coverage through the exchanges.

The new rule says congressional members and staff should use the exchanges in the states where they reside. For staffers, that likely will mean enrolling through the District, Maryland or Virginia.

“From day one, we have been building an insurance marketplace that can serve the residents and small businesses of the District of Columbia including Congress, the executive branch and the first family,” Ms. Kofman said. “We have informed OPM that we are ready to work with them to ensure success.”

The decision stirred relief on Capitol Hill and controversy among the public. Republican opponents of the law could argue that Congress excused itself from an unpopular aspect of legislation it passed in 2010.

But the administrative fix was issued because Sen. Chuck Grassley, Iowa Republican, put the provision into the original legislation saying members of Congress and their aides have to be covered by plans “created” by the Affordable Care Act or “offered through an exchange.”

Under the old system, the federal government contributed about 75 percent of premiums; members and staffers are covered through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, but it was unclear whether the program could subsidize premiums of plans offered through the exchanges.

The OPM makes clear that members and staff still can receive the contribution, although they are not eligible for tax credits or subsidies on the exchanges.

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