Is it really 'illegal' for Sebelius to buy Obamacare?
October 30th, 2013
01:12 PM ET
11 months ago

Is it really 'illegal' for Sebelius to buy Obamacare?

Updated 10/30/2013 at 3:45 p.m.

Washington (CNN) - During Wednesday's congressional grilling of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Colorado, demanded to know why Sebelius wasn't on the Obamacare exchanges.

Sebelius pointed out that she couldn’t get Obamacare because she has employer-sponsored insurance and the law does not allow her to.

After a heated exchange, the Secretary said it would be illegal for her to get insurance through the exchange.

Is this true? Not entirely, according to the Healthcare.gov website.

Sebelius is actually legally allowed to get insurance over the exchange but she would have to forego the employer contribution to her premiums.

In the Federal Employee Health Benefits Plan, that employer contribution accounts for a majority of her premiums. In order to get a private health insurance plan through Obamacare, Sebelius would have to pass up what surely amounts to more than $10,000 in annual compensation.

Here’s the relevant FAQ from Healthcare.gov. LINK

Update – Sebelius has Medicare

There's a new wrinkle in the case of whether Sebelius can get health insurance via the Obamacare exchange or not.

It turns out Sebelius was right. But not for the reason she said.

Sebelius said at the hearing that she couldn't enroll on the exchanges because she has employer sponsored health insurance. That is incorrect.

She did not mention Medicare, but it she turned 65 back in May and so she is technically a Medicare enrollee even though she clearly still believes she gets health insurance via the Federal Employee Health Benefits Plan.

It is illegal for a Medicare enrollee to obtain insurance on the exchanges.

"Marketplace plans cannot be sold to a Medicare enrollee, and the Secretary is a Medicare enrollee," said spokeswoman Joanne Peters.

Indeed, a CMS FAQ from October clarified that, "Consistent with the long-standing prohibitions on the sale and issuance of duplicate coverage to Medicare beneficiaries (section 1882(d) of the Social Security Act), it is illegal to knowingly sell or issue a Qualified Health Plan (QHP) to a Medicare beneficiary. This prohibition does not apply in the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) market."


Filed under: Health care • Kathleen Sebelius
soundoff (21 Responses)
  1. A True Conservative

    What?!?! She wasn't entirely honest?!?! Notice the shocked look on my face!

    October 30, 2013 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  2. Wire Palladin, S.F.

    My God CNN! I cannot imagine any employed person giving up their employer contribution to go it alone on health care. Her cost would be $10,000 more. Give it up, and start reporting the good news from the ACA.

    October 30, 2013 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  3. Malory Archer

    There is no such product as "Obamacare" so there's nothing to "buy". Therefore, whomever asked such a stupid question should be launched out of a cannon at high noon.

    October 30, 2013 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  4. O'drama ya Mama

    Maybe she didnt understand the exact legality of it but she still is technically right.

    October 30, 2013 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  5. Winning

    Umm, nobody can "get Obamacare" because there is no product called Obamacare. She does not need to obtain private insurance because she already has it through her employer. This whole post is stupid and misleading. Even if you don't like the law, at least discuss it in terms of what it actually does.

    October 30, 2013 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  6. anonymous

    the federal government should cancel all insurance coverage for all federal employees and let them all enjoy the obamacare exchanges they are forcing on the american people. no more special treatment and doging the laws they write and jam down our throats.

    October 30, 2013 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  7. Fair is Fair

    Wire Palladin, S.F.

    My God CNN! I cannot imagine any employed person giving up their employer contribution to go it alone on health care. Her cost would be $10,000 more. Give it up, and start reporting the good news from the ACA.
    ------–
    That's not the point, Wired. She said it was ILLEGAL. She LIED. AGAIN. UNDER OATH. I'll cut her some slack, though, and say that's she's woefully ignorant of the law she's charged with implementing.

    October 30, 2013 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  8. Ol' Yeller

    @Fair is Fair

    That's not the point, Wired. She said it was ILLEGAL. She LIED. AGAIN. UNDER OATH. I'll cut her some slack, though, and say that's she's woefully ignorant of the law she's charged with implementing.

    Hey, at least she showed up to testify, which more than anyone can say (honestly) about the bush crew when they were subpoenaed for hearings. They just didn't bother showing up. That is how much they respected the laws of America and our system of government. Just didn't apply to them...
    Didn't see you on here typing IN ALL CAPS then!

    October 30, 2013 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  9. Winning

    @ Anonymous: federal employees are not dodging the law any more than someone in the private sector who has insurance through their employer. There is no Obamacare product to buy. Since Federal employees have insurance offered through their employer, they can either take that insurance or forego it and go to a private exchance. They are not getting special treatment, there is simple no reason to use the exchanges because they already have insurance; the exchanges are for those whose employers do not offer insurance or for those who don't like what their employer offers.

    October 30, 2013 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  10. Gurgyl

    Well, it is her choice. She either can keep it or can go through Healthcare Exchanges. There is nothing illegality here, since she has preference in 10,000 she could as well keep it. Cory Gardner got to be idiot not to understand. GOP is darn doomed. The end.

    October 30, 2013 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  11. Sniffit

    "What?!?! She wasn't entirely honest?!?! Notice the shocked look on my face!"

    Except she was. She clearly meant that it would be illegal for her to go on the exchange while receiving the federal benefits at the same time. Grow up. And CNN needs to grow up too. There's nothing misleading in what she said taken in context.

    October 30, 2013 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  12. paul dillon

    Soooo, she had obviously made the assumption that she would not take one for the team in order to garner cooperation in the roll out.
    Clearly another example of what is good enough for many of us is not good enough for her. Do as she says folks, not as she does.

    October 30, 2013 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  13. Laura

    I simply cannot believe the people defending her. She thinks these exchanges are so good for everyone. She should join in like everyone else. Cmon, people!!!!!

    October 30, 2013 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  14. Sniffit

    "That's not the point, Wired. She said it was ILLEGAL. She LIED. AGAIN. UNDER OATH. I'll cut her some slack, though, and say that's she's woefully ignorant of the law she's charged with implementing."

    Only if you take it out of context and assume that she meant it would be "illegal" for her to quit the federal benefits program and go to the exchange. She clearly CLEARLY did not mean that...not in any way, shape or form...and deliberately misinterpreting her by taking it out of context of the question and what was obviously her understanding of it when she answered is nonsense. This is deliberate nontroversy fabrication. She quite obviously meant it would be illegal for her to try to do both and you and the rest of the RWNJs trying to have their "gotcha moment"...not to mention CNN and it's attempt at a "gotcha moment"...all know very well exactly what she meant. Interpreting it any other way is playing the game of being deliberately obtuse.

    October 30, 2013 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  15. Sniffit

    "Clearly another example of what is good enough for many of us is not good enough for her. Do as she says folks, not as she does."

    She's receiving insurance from her large employer. The ACA requires exactly the same thing from large employers in the private sector. There's no difference. Yes, the GOP/Teatrolls and MSM like to pretend this is about what the employees are required to do, but it's not. It's about what the EMPLOYERS are required to do, which is provide health insurance benefits to their employees. For the federal gov't to skirt that requirement by dumping all of its employees off its health insurance benefits program would be grossly unfair to all the private employers who still have to provide such benefits...not to mention the employees of the federal gov't, who would suddenly be getting treated differently than every other employee of a large private employer in the country.

    October 30, 2013 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  16. Warren

    CNN please start reporting on the good parts of the ACA..We need to also remember that Healthcare.gov is only one way to sign up.... Go to any Insurance companies website and it all there also.

    October 30, 2013 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  17. Drew

    Hey CNN, you really missed the boat on this. She is right, it is illegal because she receives Medicare. Has nothing whatsoever to do with any employee health coverage. Case closed.

    October 30, 2013 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  18. Rudy NYC

    Fair wrote:

    That's not the point, Wired. She said it was ILLEGAL. She LIED. AGAIN. UNDER OATH. I'll cut her some slack, though, and say that's she's woefully ignorant of the law she's charged with implementing.
    --------------------–
    Calm down. Explain it to us how she lied. Pay attention to the question that she was asked, while you're at it. She was not asked about dropping her current insurance. She was literally asked about buying what amounts to a second policy.

    October 30, 2013 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  19. Gurgyl

    It is derived from Mitt Romney care. When it working in Massachuttes, why big deal for stupid GOP?

    October 30, 2013 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  20. Marcus (from...?)

    Ehrrr... excuse me CNN, but aren't you trying to create a commotion (again) when there's nothing to cause one?

    She already has insurance. Bought and paid by the Federal Govt., just like all those dudes and dudettes of the GOP lining up to ask her questions. So, unless she gives up (or declines its applicability, whatever the one is the proper term) the one she already has, it IS illegal for her to buy another THROUGH Obamacare) it's not a product, but a way to buy products).

    October 30, 2013 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  21. Sniffit

    "She should join in like everyone else."

    Except it's not "everyone else." The vast vast majority of Americans actually do receive their health care benefits from their employers and will continue to do so. This isn't about the individual mandate, which simply requires that you be insured, is satisfied via an employer provided plan and is not limited to being on the exchange. It's about the employer mandate, which requires large employers to provide insurance to their employees. The federal gov't is a large employer and, to be fair and equal and just and equitable, it should be subject to the same rules it is enforcing on large private employers.

    October 30, 2013 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |