Members of Congress Get a Pretty Sweet Deal on Their Health Insurance
Policy + Politics

Members of Congress Get a Pretty Sweet Deal on Their Health Insurance


As members of Congress debate whether to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, it seems fair to ask: How much do they pay for health care? The answer is that, while they don't pay nothing for coverage, they don't pay much.

As the myth busting website Snopes points out, "contrary to popular belief, Congressional members do not receive free health care." Instead, they choose a gold-level Obamacare policy and receive federal subsidies that cover 72 percent of the cost of the premiums.

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In short, Snopes reports that members of Congress and staff "pay approximately 28 percent of their annual healthcare premiums through pre-tax payroll deductions." They also have access to "free or low-cost care" through the Office of the Attending Physician as well as "free medical outpatient care at military facilities" in the D.C. area.

That's a pretty good deal, especially given that the average 21-year-old making $25,000 a year would be charged $282 per month for a silver Obamacare plan, and pay about half of that, or $142, thanks to subsidies, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

But, Jeffrey Frank of The New Yorker reports, one of the reasons legislators might be fixated on doing away with Obamacare is because they used to have a deal they liked even better. Before, they were covered by a "beloved, and by most accounts well-administered, federal plan" called the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP).

Were the ACA to be repealed, legislators would get to return to that "comfortable" situation. They would still enjoy many of the ACA's protections: under FEHBP plans, "no one can be refused, or charged more, for a preëxisting condition" and "dependents under twenty-six are covered," Frank writes. Unfortunately, he adds, "twenty million other Americans won't."

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Federal subsidies for insurance under FEHBP would remain stable at 72 percent, so even if they returned to their former plan, members of Congress would pay the same percentage of their costs that they currently do. They would not get health insurance for free. These days, fewer and fewer people do. In 2001, 34 percent of employers paid for 100 percent of their employees' premiums. In 2016, Forbes found, that had dropped to only nine percent of employers.

"Since its inception, the Best Companies to Work For list has seen a 74 percent reduction in honorees covering the full cost of their workers' health insurance," Forbes reports.

In fact, the rising cost of health insurance and the burden it places on employers is one of the reasons experts say you shouldn't expect a raise any time soon. Unfortunately, the current repeal-and-replace efforts are not expected to do much to rein in those costs.

This article originally appeared on CNBC. Read more from CNBC:

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