Nomination of OPM Director Held, Obama Steps in to Clear Impasse

Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) has placed a hold on the nominee for the director of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), Katherine Archuleta.

The hold was placed on the nominee until the White House or OPM answer questions on how the Affordable Care Act will apply to lawmakers and congressional staffers. 

“There is no reason we should vote on this position until we know what the administration's position is on our employees' health insurance starting Oct. 1," Coburn said. "I plan on holding that nomination until we get an answer so we can legislate or do something for the very valuable staff that we have and the stupidity for which we have in the present law - a gutting of our own staff because someone was trying to make a political point."

That someone referred to by Sen. Coburn was his colleague, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA). Senator Grassley inserted a provision into the Affordable Care Act which said members of Congress and their staff must be covered by plans created by the bill or through the new state health care exchanges.

It has been unclear, absent OPM guidance, whether the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) would contribute towards payments for legislators and staff for plans on the exchanges.

Lawmakers and their staff were concerned that health care costs would rise by thousands of dollars if the government contribution of nearly seventy-five (75) percent of premium payments ended.

Members of leadership from both chambers pressured President Obama on the issue, fearing a “brain drain” from their staffs if their health premiums rose too much.

Last week the President told congressional leaders that he is now personally involved in the issue. Shortly thereafter, OPM said guidelines will be out in the coming weeks.

UPDATE (August 7): Senator Coburn has said he plans to release the hold on the nomination for OPM director, after the agency issued a proposed rule on Wednesday, August 7. Under the proposed rule, the government will continue to provide the same coverage rate as currently provided under FEHBP, yet members and their staffs will have to find health insurance through the new state health care exchanges.

Posted in General News

Tags: OPM, Office of Personnel Management

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