Tuesday, July 30, 2013
The New York Times reported yesterday that many Congressional staffers are thinking about leaving their jobs because the ACA requires them (and members of Congress) to purchase their health insurance on state exchanges, and there is no mechanism in the law for the federal government to continue to pay its share of the premiums for the coverage, as it does now under the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program. (Apparently, members of Congress are not thinking about leaving their jobs because of this, you can decide for yourself whether that is fortunate or unfortunate.) This gap in the law was flagged by the Congressional Research Service almost immediately after the ACA was signed into law by President Obama, but nobody has come up with a solution to date. The most the administration is saying about this right now is that they are "working on a regulation."
This situation presents an ironic twist on the often-voiced fear amongst critics of the ACA that the existence of the exchanges and the penalties for employers who do not offer adequate health insurance coverage to employees will encourage employers to drop insurance coverage as a job benefit. Here, the employer wants to continue to cover the employees, but is prevented from doing so by a glitch in the law. It also presents an ironic twist on the often-voiced praise amongst supporters of the ACA that the existence of the exchanges and the subsidies for purchasing individual insurance will allow employees who want to leave their jobs for greener pastures, but could not do so for fear of losing their insurance, to finally leave their unsatisfactory jobs. Here, we have people who want to keep their jobs, but say they will be forced to leave because their employer cannot provide them with insurance.
These problems can probably be fixed with a simple administrative policy, and the people affected have the political clout to see that it is done. If only that was the case for most other folks affected by the unintended consequences of legislation.