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Nov 20, 2013

CREW Asks Congressional Ethics Committees to Investigate Special Health Benefits for Lawmakers

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U.S. CapitolWashington, D.C. Today, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) asked the House and Senate Ethics Committees to investigate whether members of Congress and congressional staff are receiving special benefits from insurance companies such as Aetna and Blue Cross Blue Shield in violation of congressional ethics rules.

Read the requests to the House and Senate Ethics Committees

CREW’s complaints are based on a story in the New York Times, reporting that lawmakers and staff navigating the Affordable Care Act have access to special Congress-only telephone hotlines and other perks.

CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan stated, “It is stunning that while not a day goes by without reports of Americans’ frustration and confusion about how to sign up for insurance under the Affordable Care Act, members of Congress have allowed health insurance companies — all of which have legislative interests on the Hill — to quietly come in and offer special assistance to members and staff.”

According to the Times, members of Congress and staff have access to “in-person support sessions,” conducted in the Capitol and congressional office buildings by the D.C. insurance exchange and four major insurers. Members and their staffs also can log on to a special Blue Cross Blue Shield website just for members of Congress, and Blue Cross and Aetna offer telephone hotlines just for members and staff.

House and Senate ethics rules prohibit lawmakers and staff from accepting benefits related to their congressional employment. Services and training are included as potentially unacceptable gifts.

CREW also asked that the House Ethics Committee investigate whether Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) violated House ethics rules by proclaiming all of his staff members, including those employed by his personal office, not part of his “official office” to allow them to remain covered by the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program and, therefore, avoid the exchange.

Sloan continued, “The rollout of the Affordable Care Act has been a disaster all around. Maybe if members of Congress were forced to live with the same consequences as everyone else — rather than having their burden eased by insurance companies — they’d be more inclined to stop yelling about the failure and help fix it.”