Obamacare sign-up befuddles congressmen, too

Many have tales of woe trying to sign up, though some have had success

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“I was on, and then I was off,” he said. “I’ll try again before I go home. Because we know, left to my own accord, I’ll never get on.”

Many of the senators interviewed by The Washington Times said their staffs have given the exchange a test run before they have, and that they’re leaning on them for help.

But House Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, released a sequence of photos Thursday that show him sitting, on his own, at a computer and trying to sign up. He said he worked past an initial error message, only to be stymied by an “internal server error” screen.

“Despite multiple attempts, I was unable to get past that point and sign up for a health plan,” he said. “We’ve got a call into the help desk. Guess I’ll just have to keep trying.”

D.C. exchange personnel set up a meeting room in the Capitol’s basement Wednesday to help lawmakers and staff understand their options.

The exchange was quick to note it is holding enrollment fairs for city residents, too, including a large one at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library on Saturday.

“One thing that sometimes gets lost in translation on this is the 112 plan choices available to members and staff are the exact same plan choices available to all eligible small businesses in the District,” Mr. Sorian said.

But lawmakers and staff did get a boost when the Obama administration said they could keep a federal subsidy that pays for up to 75 percent of their premiums.

The Office of Personnel Management came to that conclusion after members of Congress feared a “brain drain” from the Hill if staff members had to take on hundred or thousands of dollars in unsubsidized health-premium costs.

Sen. David Vitter, Louisiana Republican, has been a fierce critic of this exception for Congress, since everyday Americans on the exchanges will not enjoy a generous employer-based subsidy. He also wants a legislative fix to shine a light on lawmakers who let their staff stay out of the reach of Obamacare by designating them as nonofficial.

Normally, people with employee-based health care would not enter the exchanges, but lawmakers accepted an amendment to the health care law by Sen. Chuck Grassley, Iowa Republican, to make sure lawmakers feel what Obamacare will offer Americans in the individual market.

“I’m not thrilled at all,” Sen. Dan Coats, Indiana Republican, said of enrolling. But he added, “We should have to sleep in whatever bed we make.”

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