Congressional leaders in both parties are engaged in high-level, confidential talks about exempting lawmakers and Capitol Hill aides from the insurance exchanges they are mandated to join as part of President Barack Obamas health care overhaul, sources in both parties said.
The talks which involve Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), the Obama administration and other top lawmakers are extraordinarily sensitive, with both sides acutely aware of the potential for political fallout from giving carve-outs from the hugely controversial law to 535 lawmakers and thousands of their aides. Discussions have stretched out for months, sources said.
Yet if Capitol Hill leaders move forward with the plan, they risk being dubbed hypocrites by their political rivals and the American public. By removing themselves from a key Obamacare component, lawmakers and aides would be held to a different standard than the people who put them in office.
The problem stems from whether members and aides set to enter the exchanges would have their health insurance premiums subsidized by their employer in this case, the federal government. If not, aides and lawmakers in both parties fear that staffers especially low-paid junior aides could be hit with thousands of dollars in new health care costs
, prompting them to seek jobs elsewhere. Older, more senior staffers could also retire or jump to the private sector rather than face a big financial penalty.
Plus, lawmakers especially those with long careers in public service and smaller bank accounts are also concerned about the hit to their own wallets.