President Obama, members of Congress, and their aides will have to enroll in Obamacare's health exchanges next year — Congress because they legally have to, and Obama because he publicly promised to. As with much of Obamacare's exchanges, a lot of the kinks haven't been worked out yet. The switch will potentially be painful, and staffers could lose the retirement plans they've been promised.
The switch won't apply to everyone equally, Politico's Jennifer Haberkorn explains. Republicans in Congress insisted that members had to be enrolled in the health exchanges when the law was being debated four years ago — a switch from the Federal Employees Health Benefits program. But the law ended up including only some staffers, Haberkorn writes. Lawmakers' aides have to switch to the exchange, but the people who work for committees and congressional leaders do not. And the politicians who are on Medicare don't have to switch.
In March 2010, Obama promised to enroll in an exchange, Politico's Kyle Cheney notes. "Asked repeatedly whether the president planned to follow through, White House officials deferred to the statement published three years ago," Cheney writes. But it doesn't actually matter. Obama will still use the White House Medical Unit and his official physician.
Congressional staffers don't make much money, but somewhat like some union workers, in exchange they get good health benefits. Moving to the exchanges could take that away — it's not clear whether the government will keep paying approximately 70 percent of their insurance premiums, which is worth thousands of dollars. And if you work for the government for 20 years, you can get retirement health care under FEHB. But the exchanges aren't part of FEHB. A spokesman for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said she was worried that it would be harder for lawmakers to hire good people to work for them.