Members of Congress Confused About How Health Care Reform Affects Them Personally

health care

Three weeks after President Obama signed his landmark health care overhaul into law, Americans are still seeking answers about how the reforms will impact them -- and it turns out members of Congress are as well.

A new report from the Congressional Research Service concludes the new laws may inadvertently kick members of Congress and some staffers out of their current health care plans, the New York Times reports.

Currently, congressmen and congressional staffers participate in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (F.E.H.B.P.). However, lawmakers added a provision into the legislation dictating that they would be required to buy health care coverage through the state-based exchanges the new laws establish. The intent of the provision was to make good on the promise that all Americans would receive the same coverage as members of Congress. The problem is, those exchanges will not be in place until 2014, and Congress may technically be forced out of the F.E.H.B.P. before then.

"It is unclear whether members of Congress and Congressional staff who are currently participating in F.E.H.B.P. may be able to retain this coverage," the CRS wrote in a 8,100-word memorandum, the Times reports.

CBSNews.com Special Report: Health Care

Times reporter Robert Pear acknowledges the question hanging over the report: "If they did not know exactly what they were doing to themselves, did lawmakers who wrote and passed the bill fully grasp the details of how it would influence the lives of other Americans?"

Whether they did or not, regular citizens are still trying to find the answers for themselves. National Public Radio reports that government officials, physicians and nonprofit groups are receiving "an avalanche of questions" from people confused about how the health care reforms will impact them.

Traffic on the House of Representatives' health care hotline, designed to help congressmen answer constituents' questions, is up 70 percent, NPR reports. Tens of thousands of people are seeking answers from groups like the pro-reform consumer group Families USA and the senior citizens' advocacy group AARP.

Meanwhile, Republicans are not backing away from their plan to campaign on repealing -- and perhaps "replacing" -- the health care legislation. House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) asserted Monday on a talk radio show that repealing the reforms remained his "No. 1 priority," Politico reports. The promise to repeal the legislation, however, would be hard to keep, and Republicans are split on how to address the issue.