Cole asked Cassidy during a subcommittee meeting last week whether the CAO had been keeping tabs on the number of staffers exempted from enrolling in the exchange.
In the fall, veteran staffers alleged that health insurance had become a political weapon, with their benefits being tossed around in a partisan debate about implementation of the new law. Sens. David Vitter, R-La., and Ron Johnson, R-Wis., for instance, have worked tirelessly to prohibit the federal government from contributing to staff health care costs.
DC Health Link acknowledged technical difficulties that barred some of its congressional customers from accessing the website at crucial times, including during a Dec. 5 health benefits fair for staff. Some staff members waited in line for more than two hours to use a single computer made available to attendees.
Others were warned to stay on high alert for a phishing scam that reportedly plagued the site. The scam sent members and staff trying to sign up for health insurance to a site seeking debit card numbers and personal identification numbers as identity verification.
“It’s not clear that the D.C. exchange was ready for us,” Cassidy said of DC Health Link. “It certainly wasn’t designed for such a large number of employees of a single employer, but our staff has worked closely with theirs and we’ve narrowed the number of staff who are still not enrolled to literally a dozen or two.”
On Dec. 6, with insurers and administrative staff struggling to get staffers enrolled before the Dec. 9 deadline, then-CAO Dan Strodel announced an extension. Though the open enrollment season closed Dec. 9, members and staff who could prove they tried to enroll in the District’s insurance exchange by that date but were unsuccessful in completing the process, had another chance to do so before coverage from the federal benefits program expired.
Cassidy explained that the enrollment season deadlines have been waived to help the many congressional enrollees still struggling with DC Health Link.
Figures for Senate enrollment were not available to CQ Roll Call at press time.
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.