Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius misrepresented part of the Affordable Care Act on Wednesday as she testified before a House committee.
Sebelius told lawmakers it would be “illegal” for her to sign up for coverage through the law’s insurance marketplaces because she receives health benefits through her job.
“If I have affordable coverage in my workplace, I’m not eligible to go into the marketplace. That’s part of the law,” she said.
But people who have employer-based coverage are, in fact, allowed to decline that coverage and shop through the exchanges. They simply can’t receive tax subsidies to help cover the cost of their premiums, said Tim Jost, a law professor at Washington & Lee University.
Sebelius herself might still be ineligible for the exchanges because she’s on Medicare ““ but that’s not the reason she gave at Wednesday’s hearing.
The question of which political officials will go into the exchanges is a charged one that often misses the point of Obamacare. The law was primarily designed to serve the individual market ““ people who don’t get insurance through their job and buy it on their own, instead.
Sebelius noted that she has health insurance through her job ““ the same coverage available to all federal employees who have health care benefits, including members of Congress. And the federal government, like almost all large employers, covers a significant part of its employees’ premiums.
Members of Congress and their staffs must purchase coverage through the exchanges, but the federal government can still cover its normal share of their premiums.
By asking Sebelius to buy coverage through the exchanges, Republicans would be asking her to pay her entire premium on her own, despite having access to a traditional employer-based policy.
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"Even if House Republicans manage to get enough members of their party on board with the latest version of their health care bill, they will face another battle in the Senate: whether the bill complies with the chamber’s arcane ... Byrd rule, which stipulates all provisions in a reconciliation bill must affect federal spending and revenues in a way that is not merely incidental." Democrats should have the advantage in that fight, "unless the Senate pulls another 'nuclear option.'”
The House has passed a one-week spending bill that will avert a government shutdown which was set to begin at midnight. Lawmakers now have an extra week to come to a longer agreement which is expected to fund the government through the end of the fiscal year in September. The legislation now goes to the Senate, where it is expected to pass before President Trump signs it.
President Trump’s portrayal of an effort to funnel more Medicaid dollars to Puerto Rico as a "bailout" is complicating negotiations over a continuing resolution on the budget. "House Democrats are now requiring such assistance as a condition for supporting the continuing resolution," a position that the GOP leadership is amenable to. "But Mr. Trump’s apparent skepticism aligns him with conservative House Republicans inclined to view its request as a bailout, leaving the deal a narrow path to passage in Congress."
Democrats in the House are threatening to shut down the government if Republicans expedite a vote on a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare, said Democratic House Whip Steny Hoyer Thursday. Lawmakers have introduced a one-week spending bill to give themselves an extra week to reach a long-term funding deal, which seemed poised to pass easily. However, the White House is pressuring House Republicans to take a vote on their Obamacare replacement Friday to give Trump a legislative victory, though it is still not clear that they have the necessary votes to pass the health care bill. This could go down to the wire.