House Speaker Nancy Pelosi famously said that we would find out all the things that is in health care reform once it had passed. The New York Times is reporting that Obamacare may have within it a nasty surprise for Congress.
“In a new report, the Congressional Research Service says the law may have significant unintended consequences for the “personal health insurance coverage” of senators, representatives and their staff members.
“For example, it says, the law may ‘remove members of Congress and Congressional staff’ from their current coverage, in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, before any alternatives are available.
“The confusion raises the inevitable question: If they did not know exactly what they were doing to themselves, did lawmakers who wrote and passed the bill fully grasp the details of how it would influence the lives of other Americans?”
The theory was apparently, for reasons of fairness, members of Congress and their staffs would be removed from the federal employees’ health program. They would, instead, seek health care insurance in the state-based health insurance exchanges which, oddly enough, do not now exist.
By a strict interpretation of the law, members of Congress and their staffs do not now have health care insurance. That is because, since the provision of the law that kicks them out of the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program does not have a specific inception date, it comes into effect with the signing of the bill. Whether Congress will acknowledge this reading of the law, or whether it will pretend that this provision is not yet in effect, remains to be seen. If Congress chooses the latter course, all sorts of legal mischief could begin with groups or citizens suing to force Congress to obey the law.
On another level, this development is the kind of poetic justice that would not work as fiction, but seems to have happened in real life. In its rush to pass the bill, as opposition to it grew to such an extent that tens of thousands of people stood outside chanting for Congress to stop, the Congress seems to not so much shot itself in the foot as it has shot itself in the head.
If Congress actually follows the law that itself passed, members who get sick or injured can no longer get treatment under the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program. They will either have to pay for the treatment out of pocket, which many members are capable of doing, or else queue up in the emergency room with the rest of the insurance-less folks and wait their turn behind the accident victims.
What sort of gyrations will occur to fix this remains to be seen, but they will be entertaining.
Source:Baffled by Health Plan? So Are Some Lawmakers, Robert Fear, New York Times, April 12th, 2010