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Gazette Premium Content Washington’s political class thinks we lose sleep over ‘brain drain’

The Gazette editorial Updated: August 9, 2013 at 3:02 pm

Social engineers in Congress and the White House were certain they could do a better job with our country's health care mess, so they gave us Obamacare. It would make health care more affordable and manageable for all.

Not only does the program have all the signs of legacy flop, it appears Congress can't even figure out health care for its members and staffers. This would be funny if it weren't an indication of the national health care chaos that lies ahead when Obamacare enrollment begins this fall.

Members of Congress and their staffers don't want Obamacare. Many of them sold the program as something that would give ordinary Americans a package of health care benefits to match their own.

Here's how the Associated Press explained it Wednesday: "During the drawn-out debate over 'Obamacare,' Democrats kept insisting that their goal was merely to provide uninsured Americans with the same kinds of coverage and choices that members of Congress have."

Keeping that promise in mind, Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, of Iowa, rightly insisted that subsidized Obamacare plans be identical to the insurance of Congress.

It's unrealistic to think Obamacare will somehow insure today's uninsured with the same platinum plans given to the political class. No one knows how government will pay for bare-bones coverage, let alone luxury plans for all.

So, to make certain Obamacare plans match congressional coverage, Grassley passed an amendment to Obamacare. It requires congressional politicians and their staffers to get their policies from Obamacare exchanges.

The howls from Washington, in response to Grassley's amendment, have taken hypocrisy to extremes. Obamacare is good enough for everyone else, we're told, but forcing it on congressional staffers goes too far. Staffers have argued among themselves, even looking to exempt elite employees who work for committees or personal offices of politicians.

Traditionally, government covers nearly all the health care premiums for members of Congress and their staffs. As exchanges drew near, staffers complained that Grassley's amendment would force them onto exchange insurance they might actually have to pay for. The amendment might make them like the commoners, who will be forced to buy insurance with their hard-earned wages.

Of course, many of these people make solid six-figure salaries. So they assure us they're not worried about themselves. They're concerned about us. If they have to use Obamacare and pay for it, like millions of other Americans, their jobs will become less desirable. Therefore, they will move onto other forms of employment, which will cause a "brain drain."

"The potential for staff losing the subsidies led to concerns of 'brain drain' from the Hill if staffers left as a result of the increased costs," wrote Jon Foley, the director of planing and policy for the Office of Personnel Management, in a statement this week.

"Brain drain" should terrify us all. If Congress loses its best and brightest young staffers, government will no longer be so adept at improving our lives. That's the theory, anyhow.

So this week, the Office of Personnel Management issued guidelines that assure legislators and their staffers they will not lose their lucrative health insurance subsidies. Whew! Thank goodness we won't have brain drain and lose some of the people who drafted Obamacare. We know most Americans lose sleep at night fretting over brain drain from Washington.

Members of Congress can barely manage health coverage as it affects themselves and employees. Yet we've allowed them to wrestle control of care for a country of 314 million. Alas, we fear, the train wreck has barely begun.

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