Will Coburn lift Archuleta hold?

The Obama administration's signal that the federal government would continue to offer contributions to the health care premiums of congressional staffers appears to clear the way for Sen. Tom Coburn to lift a hold on the OPM nominee.

US Capitol

The Obama administration’s signal late last week that the federal government would continue to offer contributions to the health care premiums of congressional staffers appears to clear the way for Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) to lift a hold on the nomination of Katherine Archuleta to head the Office of Personnel Management.

Coburn announced at a July 31 Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee meeting his intention to block a quick floor vote on Archuleta’s nomination until the administration made clear its position on health insurance benefits for congressional employees who are being forced out of the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program and into insurance exchanges created by a provision of the 2010 health care overhaul.

Under the law, members and staff are required to move to exchanges. But the provision does not specify whether the government is allowed to make contributions to defray premium costs. Many lawmakers feared that staffers would have to pay their entire premiums out of pocket, which could induce many to leave for more lucrative private-sector jobs. Hill staffers are scheduled to begin enrolling in the exchanges Oct. 1.

Coburn is waiting to review the regulations before commenting on whether the administration has satisfied his request. OPM is expected to publish proposed regulations governing coverage for Hill staff later this week.

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