- The Washington Times - Friday, December 6, 2013

Obamacare enrollment has been far below White House expectations around the country, and it’s not going that much better on Capitol Hill.

The Washington Times has learned exclusively that only 101 members of the House of Representatives have enrolled in the Washington, D.C. health care exchange. The deadline for enrollment in Monday, Dec. 9. 

Just 173 of the 438 House members (which includes three delegates) have completed the application for health insurance as of Wednesday, according to internal documents from the D.C. Health Benefit Exchange.

Congressional staffers have also signed up at about the same rate. One-third of Senate staff have enrolled in Obamacare (1,435 of the 4,176), while over half have completed the application (2,246). The data for senators was not included in the documents.

On Friday afternoon, Senate staffers got an email about “post-Open Season enrollments for individuals who are not able to enroll for reasons beyond their control.”

The D.C. exchange website has been riddled with problems just like the federal healthcare.gov. One Senate aide said, “This is literally sucking hours and hours away from our work time. We’re all trying to get on this website, 24-7.”

Staff who tried to enroll but did not get a confirmation notice will have until Dec. 16 to contact the Senate’s Disbursement Office to finalize their policies. 

In the Republican-controlled House, enrollment is slightly lower.

One in four staffers will definitely be getting their health care through the D.C. exchange as of January 1. Of the 6,384 staffers in the lower chamber, 2,741 have filled out applications and 1,568 of them have completed enrollment. 

The Chief Administrative Officer for the House is allowing members and staff to stay on the federal insurance health care policies until Jan. 31 if they don’t make the deadline for coverage in the exchanges. 

However, regulations written after the Affordable Care Act was passed allows lawmakers to exempt themselves or their staff in some cases.

For political purposes, Congress decided to make itself comply with Obamacare. This made the members and staff the only people in the country who have health care from their employers but are being forced to go into the health care exchanges, which are intended for the uninsured.

The taxpayers will pick up the difference between congressional employees’ current contribution to the federal insurance plans and the cost of the premiums in the exchange. 

Only one congressional leader has decided that his staffers deserve better than Obamacare offered in the District: Sen. Harry Reid.

The Senate Majority Leader gave an exemption to some of his committee and leadership staff so that they can keep their federal insurance plans.

Sen. Ted Cruz blasted the Nevada Democrat. “Sen. Reid’s decision to exempt his staff from Obamacare exchanges is the clearest example yet of Obamacare’s failures and Washington hypocrisy,” the Texas Republican said Wednesday. “His staff worked to pass it and continue to promote it, now they don’t want to be part of it because it’s a disaster.”

Emily Miller is senior editor of opinion for The Washington Times and author of “Emily Gets Her Gun” (Regnery, 2013).

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