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Assemblyman wants lawmakers to enroll in health insurance exchange

October 02, 2013|By Melanie Mason

SACRAMENTO -- Assemblyman Brian Nestande is no fan of Obamacare, but he's pushing a proposal to require all state lawmakers to get their benefits through the newly launched healthcare exchanges.

The Palm Desert Republican said he'll be introducing a bill that would require lawmakers who want to get health benefits offered by the Legislature to enroll through Covered California, the state's healthcare exchange.

"This is what legislators in California have proposed that people in the state have to buy into," Nestande said in an interview. He said lawmakers should know firsthand any issues that arise in the exchanges.

"If it’s not working well, we will know quickly and we'll move to make any necessary changes," he said.

But don't take this as an enthusiastic endorsement for Covered California, which kicked off its open enrollment period Tuesday.

"I’m not in favor of the Affordable Care Act. If I were in Congress, I would’ve voted against it. This is not a law that I favor," said Nestande, who is running for Congress next year against freshman Rep. Raul Ruiz (D-Palm Desert).

"I would not be enthusiastic about going into [the] exchange at all, but I believe it’s appropriate," he said.

The issue of participation in the insurance exchanges by federal lawmakers and, in particular, congressional staffers has been a friction point in the ongoing government shutdown.

Members of Congress and their staff are required under the healthcare law to participate in the insurance exchanges. Some Republicans have called for eliminating the government subsidies for lawmakers and their aides to help cover their premiums -- much like the contributions large employers pay for their workers' health insurance.

Opponents of the healthcare law have said the subsidies amount to an "exemption" from the healthcare law for Congress and its staff. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) called the subsidies "special treament for members of Congress" and said the rationale for delaying the implementation of Obamacare was that "there should be no special treatment for anyone under the law." 

Nestande, whose proposal would not pertain to the state's legislative staffers, said the fairness argument raised by Cantor and others gets to the "heart of the point." 

He'll introduce his bill in January, when the Legislature reconvenes from recess.


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