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Capito rejects taxpayer money paying for her health insurance

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., said this week that she no longer will accept contributions from the federal government for her health insurance and that she will introduce legislation that would prevent the federal government from contributing to the health insurance of members of Congress.

The proposed legislation is part of Capito's ongoing battle against the federal Affordable Care Act. Capito, along with other House Republicans, has voted 40 times to repeal the ACA, commonly referred to as Obamacare.

The ACA passed in 2009 with an amendment by Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, that requires members of Congress and their staffs to purchase health plans through the insurance exchanges created by the law.

Currently, most members of Congress, their staffs and other federal employees receive health plans through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, the largest employer-sponsored health program in the country.

Under the program, as with the vast majority of employer-sponsored health plans, the employer pays the bulk of an employee's premium, while the employee picks up the remainder. Plans vary, but the federal government generally pays about 75 percent of the cost of premiums for federal employees. That level would not change under the ACA.

Last week, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management issued a ruling that members of Congress and their staffs will continue to receive the same premium support from the federal government that they currently get. They will be able to use that support to help purchase insurance on the exchanges but will not be eligible for any tax credits available to people with lower incomes to purchase insurance on the exchanges.

"The proposed rule clarifies that the participants will continue to have an employer contribution toward their health insurance premiums," the OPM said in a news release. "The amount of the employer contribution toward their exchange premiums is no more than would otherwise be made toward coverage under the FEHB Program."

Capito's legislation, which is not yet available because it has not been introduced, appears to apply only to members of Congress, not their staffs.

A news release sent from her office Monday said: "Capito will not accept any health care subsidy made available to her and her legislation would end this special treatment for members of Congress."

When asked Thursday if the legislation applies to staff members as well, Lisa Boothe, a Capito spokeswoman, wrote in an email that the bill is directed at "the individuals who create the laws." When asked to clarify, she said it was directed at "lawmakers."

During an interview Thursday with Fox News, Capito was unclear when asked about her legislation with regard to congressional staffs.

"They say that 'look, we're going to lose all these great workers that we had on Capitol Hill if we don't continue to give them these subsidies,'" Fox host Gretchen Carlson said, speaking about congressional Democrats. "What message would you say to them?"

"I would say to them that regular Americans -- nonmembers of Congress -- who are forced to go to the exchanges because their employers dropped the insurance are not eligible for subsidies," Capito said. "I believe that we shouldn't be put in a special category and I believe that, if this moves forward, that the subsidies should be eliminated.

Boothe said she did not know if Capito would pay for her own insurance premiums or if the congresswoman would receive insurance through her husband or another source. Capito's husband, Charles, is a senior vice president at Wells Fargo bank.

Reach David Gutman at david.gutman@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5119.


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