Senate Conservative May Push To Exempt Congressional Staff From Obamacare

"His proposal would allow federal employees and congressional staff to keep their coverage but would not allow members to exempt themselves."

Susan Walsh / AP

One of Obamacare's biggest opponents in the Senate is considering legislation to exempt House and Senate staff from being automatically enrolled in the healthcare exchanges during the rollout this January.

Sen. Tom Coburn, who recently called the move to defund Obamacare a "failed strategy for conservatives" will soon propose his own adjustments for the law, including letting Hill staffers off the hook on signing up for the Obamacare exchanges.

According to a Coburn aide, the senator's proposal "would allow federal employees and Hill staff to keep their coverage but would not allow members to exempt themselves from Obamacare."

Hill staff are currently covered through the Federal Employee Health Benefit Plan, the nation's largest employer-sponsored health insurance program.

Lawmakers had included a provision in the original law forcing most members and staff into healthcare exchanges. Only leadership and committee staff would be exempted from the provision.

It is estimated the law will cost Hill staffers $5,000 a year for individual and $11,000 for families under some of the most popular exchange plans.

Coburn's move to do away with this provision is interesting given the relative popularity of the provision in conservative circles. His proposal is also precisely the opposite of what some Republicans in the house are calling for. House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp is proposing moving all federal employees, including the president and his executive staff, from their current plan and into an Obamacare exchange.

A recent article in the New York Times notes that Hill staffers are "freaked out" by the confusion and rocketing costs but that the Office of Personnel Management, who would oversee the Hill rollout, was working on a fix to be proposed at the end of October.

The exchanges are set to open on Oct. 1.