More than 12,000 federal lawmakers and Capitol Hill staff have signed up for health coverage on the D.C. market tied to Obamacare, a city official said Thursday.
Mila Kofman, director of the D.C. Health Benefit Exchange Authority, disclosed data that shows 12,359 people employed by Congress — some are actual members, although it is clear that the bulk of them are aides — enrolled in health coverage through the city's small-business portal.
A provision of the Affordable Care Act of 2010 requires members of Congress and their official staff to obtain health insurance from state-based exchanges tied to the law, although some have found a way around the provision.
Lawmakers designated some staff as "unofficial" and exempt from the exchanges, causing an outcry from critics who thought it was an underhanded attempt to skirt the law.
Some lawmakers will be covered by their spouse's employer or enroll on their home state's Obamacare exchange, foregoing any subsidy to help them pay their premiums.
The Office of Personnel Management said late last year that people subject to the congressional provision could keep a federal employer subsidy that pays for up to 75 percent of their premiums.
The decision prompted a sigh of relief among those who feared young staffers would flee Capitol Hill in the face of rising health costs, because the exchange's subsidies are less generous than the federal employer system. Others said it was a perk that Congress carved out for itself.
On Thursday, Ms. Kofman touted the exchange's performance so far.
"One of the strongest endorsements of our success in the District is that the federal government chose DC Health Link as the marketplace for insurance coverage for all members of Congress and their designated staffs," she said in prepared testimony for the D.C. Council.
The flood of congressional enrollments is having a major impact on D.C. sign-ups, according to Washington Post figures that said Capitol Hill sign-ups comprised about 70 percent of private health plans purchased in the District so far and 98 percent of activity on the small-business exchange, or SHOP.
About a third of the congressional enrollments — 4,045 — were from people ages 26 to 34. Younger, healthier enrollees are vital to making Obamacare's economics work, but the age breakdown is most likely a reflection of who works on Capitol Hill.
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