December 2, 2013, 1:01 PM ET
What Obamacare Coverage Costs Congressmen
By Rebecca Ballhaus and Louise Radnofsky
Some members of Congress are about to get their own kind of sticker shock when they head to the new insurance exchanges. A few will get a price cut. As the Journal has reported, a provision in the health law requires lawmakers to get their benefits alongside small-business employees for the first time, and that means lawmakers’ premiums will suddenly be tied to their age.
Members of Congress used to pay the same rate, regardless of how old they were, which was around $186 a month to cover just themselves on one popular plan after their employer (in this case, the federal government) kicked in a 75% contribution. They paid more –$434 – for a family plan, which covered a spouse and any number of children.
Now they will be keeping the employer contribution, despite the efforts of some critics. But lawmakers in their 50s and 60s are still likely to see a significant jump in what they have to pay, both because of their age, and because the contribution maxes out at a certain point. They also have to pay more for adding up to three children. (There is no extra charge for more than three children.)
Meanwhile, some younger representatives are about to see a decrease in their premiums. And some politicians, fearing accusations that they are getting a special deal, have declared they are passing up any kind of employer contribution towards the cost of their coverage and going it alone instead. That comes with its own price tag.
Here’s what’s happening to a selection of senators and representatives, with a look at the plans available to them.
Sen. Maria Cantwell (D., Wash.)
Vice President Joe Biden administers the Senate oath to Sen. Maria Cantwell (D., Wash.) in January.
Ms. Cantwell, 55 years old, will be signing up for coverage through the D.C. exchange, her office said. Her monthly premium for self-only coverage if she were to choose the popular CareFirst plan would be $696. With the federal government paying $426, that would leave her with a bill of $270 a month.
Sen. John Cornyn (R., Texas)
Sen. John Cornyn
Mr. Cornyn, 61 years old, has said he will enroll to cover himself through the exchange in his home state of Texas rather than take the congressional benefits. The least-expensive coverage for a 61-year-old nonsmoker in Austin that is at a comparable level to the benefits he would have received costs $516 a month without subsidies, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of premiums data.
Sen. Dick Durbin (D., Illinois)
Sen. Dick Durbin (D., Ill.) in October
Mr. Durbin, 69 years old, will be getting coverage for himself and his wife Loretta through the D.C. exchange, his office said. For one popular CareFirst plan, the monthly premium for the couple is $1,750 a month, of which the federal government would pay a maximum of $948, leaving them to pay $802.
Sen. Mary Landrieu (D., La.)
Sen. Mary Landrieu (D., La.) in October
Ms. Landrieu, 58, is facing a tough re-election bid next year, and expects the health law to be a key issue. She has announced that she, together with her husband and two children will forgo the congressional benefits offered to her, and instead will enroll for a family plan on the exchange the federal government is running on behalf of Louisiana, where they will not qualify for any subsidies towards their premiums. The least expensive plan comparable to a congressional plan on sale in New Orleans for a family like Ms. Landrieu’s would cost $1,774 a month without subsidies, according to The Wall Street Journal’s analysis of premiums data.
Rep. John Boehner (R., Ohio)
House Speaker John Boehner earlier this month.
Mr. Boehner, 64, enrolled in the D.C. exchange Nov. 21. “Tried signing up for #Obamacare today. How’d it go? Hint: #trainwreck,” he tweeted that day, linking to a blog post that features pictures of a frustrated-looking Mr. Boehner staring at a computer screen. Despite his apparent glumness, he was able to enroll within hours.
After receiving an “internal server error” screen after inputting his information, he called the DC Health Link help line and was able to successfully sign up later that afternoon. Mr. Boehner’s office said that he and his wife currently have a monthly premium of $433 from Blue Cross Blue Shield, with a $700 deductible. His wife will qualify for Medicare next month, for which she will pay separate premiums. Mr. Boehner, meanwhile, signed up for an individual plan with a $1,000 deductible. It has an overall premium of $875, of which the federal government will pay $426 and he will pay $449.
Rep. Paul Ryan, (R., Wis.)
U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan in November.
Mr. Ryan, 43, and his family of three young children and wife Janna, will be signing up for coverage through the D.C. exchange, his office said. If they pick the popular CareFirst plan, they will be looking at a monthly premium of $1,681, of which the federal government will pay $948. That leaves them with a monthly bill of $733.
Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.)
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of Calif., earlier in November
Premiums in the CareFirst plan don’t increase after the age of 61, so Mrs. Pelosi, 73, and other older lawmakers don’t fare any worse than their slightly more junior counterparts. Mrs. Pelosi is only signing up herself, her office said, so if she opts for the CareFirst plan too, she would be looking at the same premium as John Boehner’s — $875, of which the federal government will pay $426 and she will pay$449.
Rep. Patrick Murphy (D., Fla.)
Patrick Murphy in November 2012
Mr. Murphy, at 30 years old, is the youngest member of the House. He will be going on the D.C. exchange to get his coverage, but will be turning down the employer contribution. Even without the subsidy, his plan will be cheaper than many of his colleagues’. The premium for a 30-year-old getting the popular CareFirst plan is $313 a month. If he had taken the contribution, he’d have paid only $78.
Rep. David Valadao (R., Calif.)
Rep. David Valadao, right, in January.
Mr. Valadao, 36, is still a managing partner of Valadao Dairy, and will continue to get his insurance through the company, so he’s not taking the congressional plan at all, his office said. His office wouldn’t immediately confirm how much the premiums for that plan are, or what share of them he pays.
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