House Closes Loophole Protecting Members From Losing Insurance Benefits; Still Leaves Veterans’ Tax Credits At Risk

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As part of today’s vote on the Republican resolution to gut the Affordable Care Act, the House of Representatives also voted to close a loophole that would have exempted members of Congress and their staff members from possibly losing certain protections from their insurance plans. Meanwhile, lawmakers took no action to protect millions of veterans from potentially losing access to healthcare tax credits if this bill passes.

The Affordable Care Act requires that Congress members and their staff acquire their insurance through the individual coverage markets set up by the 2010 insurance law.

When Rep. Tom MacArthur (NJ) amended the American Health Care Act — the GOP budget resolution that seeks to undo the Affordable Care Act — to give individual states the ability to opt out of certain requirements for insurance providers, he included a controversial clause that exempted lawmakers and their staff.

So, say that a legislator’s home state decided to opt out of the requirement that insurance companies can’t charge higher rates to people with pre-existing conditions. Under the MacArthur amendment, that waiver would not have applied to coverage for the legislator.

The GOP was heavily criticized for appearing to apply a double standard to their own coverage, so Rep. Martha McSally of Arizona introduced HR 2192, which will delete that specific exemption if the AHCA is passed.

Since no member of Congress wants to be seen publicly as supporting a double standard, it’s no surprise that — in a rare moment for D.C. these days — Rep. McSally’s bill was passed without a single no vote from either party.

Republicans had defended the exemption saying that it was required by the machinations of the budget resolution process, and that the Senate would have taken care of closing this loophole. However, the GOP took no action to try to preemptively close another loophole that affects millions of veterans.

An amendment to the AHCA clarified that veterans who are merely eligible for benefits through the Department of Veteran Affairs would be barred from being able to claim healthcare tax credits — even if they are not getting, or even want, any medical care or benefits through the VA.

Critics of this loophole contend that veterans who are currently using tax credits to pay for private insurance will effectively be forced to seek help through the VA. The problem is, the VA is notoriously backlogged, and putting more people on the VA coverage roster would not alleviate that logjam.

“It is absolutely shameful that Republicans would put partisan procedural politics above the needs of our nation’s heroes,” said Rep. Tim Walz (MN), Ranking Member of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee and himself a veteran. “We were loud and clear about the disastrous impact AHCA could potentially have on millions of veterans when the bill was brought up for debate in March. Unfortunately, House Republicans never listened to our warning, and as a result, if this deeply flawed legislation passes as it is written, millions of veterans and their families could have diminished choice in where to seek care.”