CAO Fact Sheet on Congressional Health Insurance

The House Chief Administrative Officer has issued this fact sheet regarding federal health insurance available to Members of Congress and those lucky staffers found to be employed in a Member’s “official office.” Following OPM’s guidance, the CAO states:

Members of Congress and congressional administrative staff are best equipped to make the determination as to whether an individual is employed by the “official office” of that member. Designations must be made prior to November 2013 for the coverage year starting January 1, 2014 and October for subsequent plan years.

Needless to say, this statement provides no additional clarity (which is to say no clarity at all) on the question of whether committee and leadership office staff may be designated as employed by the “official office” of a Member.

A couple of other questions occur to me. What happens if a Member fails to make any designation by November? Is the default rule that any staffer not affirmatively designated by a Member by that date automatically remains on the Federal Employee Health Benefit plan?

Also, is there a mechanism by which a staffer can affirmatively challenge a designation by a Member that he or she works in his “official office”? What happens in the case of shared employees who work for more than one Member? Of in the case of a committee staffer who contends that he works for the full committee chair, rather than the subcommittee chair, or vice versa? Or the ranking member rather than the chair?

Eventually the CAO (or someone) is going to have to address these questions.

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