I finally got a reply from Sen. Brown regarding an email I sent him during the shutdown. Here it is:
Thank you for getting in touch with me about the government shutdown and the Affordable Care Act (ACA).Despite the costs to our economy, the majority in the House of Representatives chose to hold the federal government hostage in an attempt to defund or dismantle the ACA. Without a spending bill in place, the federal government shut down on October 1, 2013.Even though shutting down the government did not stop the implementation of the ACA, the majority in the House of Representatives continued to hold the federal government hostage for 16 days. In the weeks following October 1, hundreds of thousands of government workers were furloughed, and many government services were shut down or curtailed.The consequences of the shutdown were felt across the country. Seniors could not apply for Social Security benefits. Widows of veterans were denied death benefits. National parks and monuments were shuttered. Food inspections were halted. Head Start preschools closed their doors. Government-backed mortgage applications were stalled. Cancer patients were turned away from the National Institutes of Health. Despite the shutdown, the implementation of the ACA continued, because the majority of ACA funding does not come from Congressional spending.The shutdown was also extremely costly. It led to the largest drop in consumer confidence since the 2008 financial crisis. Economists estimate that the shutdown has cost tens of billions of dollars and will significantly slow economic growth in the quarter, affecting employment, business earnings, and borrowing costs.A bipartisan agreement to fund the government and lift the debt ceiling without defunding or delaying the ACA was agreed to on October 16, 2013. The agreement reopened the government at current funding levels through January 15, 2014, and lifted the debt ceiling through February 7, 2014. It also provided back pay for all federal workers who were furloughed, and called for broader budget talks by December 13.Like most laws, the ACA is not perfect, and I will continue to work with my colleagues from both parties to make this law better. Americans deserve access to affordable, comprehensive insurance coverage without fear of losing coverage, and those who can pay for their own coverage should do so.The reckless extremism and political brinkmanship over the ACA that caused this shutdown are no way to govern. This kind of manufactured crisis hurts our economy and distracts from the important work before us. With stopgap bills in place, we can sit down and work together to find common ground on ways to address our fiscal challenges and strengthen our economy.Thank you also for sharing your concerns regarding how the Affordable Care Act (ACA) applies to Members of Congress and other employees of the federal government.Like most working Americans, Members of Congress and other federal employees receive health insurance through their employer. The federal health insurance program, known as the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHB), allows federal employees, retirees, and their survivors to choose among a range of different insurance options, from catastrophic risk protection with higher deductibles to fee-for-service plans.In general, employer-provided health insurance is unaffected by the ACA. This is true for most of the millions of workers and retirees in the federal health plan. But Congress enacted a provision within the new law to require that Members of Congress and their staffs participate in the new health exchanges created by the law. The intent and effect of this decision was to ensure that Members of Congress and their staffs would go through the same process and have the same choices as the millions of American expected to be provided insurance through the ACA.I support this decision, since health reform legislation should provide Americans with the same type of insurance options that Members of Congress currently receive. This is something that I have felt strongly about since coming to Congress in 1993. Until the passage of health reform, I refused to accept health insurance through the FEHB program because too many Americans had no coverage at all.Beginning in 2014, the new health reform law will enable Americans who lack insurance, who work for small businesses, or who have individual coverage to opt in to an exchange to purchase affordable health insurance. Some 80 to 90 percent of these individuals will be eligible for assistance in the form of tax credits or subsidies. Lawmakers and Congressional aides, since they receive a subsidy from their employer, will not be eligible for the tax credits and subsidies that will be available to many other individuals who buy private insurance in the exchange. If you are interested in more information on the new law, you may want to visit www.healthcare.gov.Thank you again for being in touch with me. Please do not hesitate to contact my office in the future regarding this or any other matter of concern to you.Sincerely,Sherrod BrownUnited States Senator
Did you see the last paragraph? The first line says “Beginning in 2014, the new health reform law will enable Americans who lack insurance, who work for small businesses, or who have individual coverage to opt in to an exchange to purchase affordable health insurance.” I guess by “enable” and “opt in” he really means “must under penalty of a fine.” Heh…what a way to wordsmith that.