Obamacare enrollment: President Obama signs up, although not personally

President Obama – or, rather, the staff who worked out the details on his behalf – signed up for the 'bronze' plan. House Speaker John Boehner signed up, too, and said his premiums doubled.

Carolyn Kaster/AP/File
President Barack Obama speaks about the new health care law in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House complex in Washington, Dec. 4.

Among the crush of holiday health insurance shoppers, count President Obama.

Or don’t.

Over the weekend, while he was vacationing in Hawaii, Mr. Obama signed up for Obamacare – although he didn’t do the actual enrolling and he doesn’t really need the coverage, since he gets his medical care from the military.

Here’s what happened. The president selected a less expensive “bronze plan” from the District of Columbia exchange with a monthly premium that’s under $400. He chose the plan, but his staff went in person to enroll him – though just him, not the first family. 

Quoting an unnamed White House official, Politico reported: “Like some Americans, the complicated nature of the president’s case required an in-person sign-up,” the official said. “As you’d expect, the president’s personal information is not readily available in the variety of government databases HealthCare.gov uses to verify identities.”

The Obama sign-up was all about solidarity – to show support for the new insurance marketplaces that unofficially bear his name.

The experience didn’t go quite as smoothly for many at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue. Earlier this month, House Speaker John Boehner (R) of Ohio, told reporters that he spent “three or four hours” trying to sign up for insurance under the Affordable Care Act. His premiums will double.

When asked by a reporter why he didn’t just pay the penalty and wait a year until he’s eligible for Medicare, the speaker replied: “Well, the thought crossed my mind. My health insurance premiums are going to double. My co-pays and deductibles triple under Obamacare. I'm thrilled to death, as you can tell.”

The Affordable Care Act requires that members of Congress and most of their staffs join the District’s exchange, if they want to continue to keep receiving their employer contribution – paid for by taxpayers of course, but the idea is in keeping with many private companies that contribute to their employees’ health plans.

The Washington Post reported Dec. 9 that at least 55 senators of both parties are enrolling in the exchange, called DC Health Link. Sen. Rand Paul (R) of Kentucky, who is a possible presidential contender and vociferous critic of Obamacare, also enrolled in the DC exchange  – a process that took him more than two hours, according to the Lexington Herald Leader.

Speaker Boehner describes his frustrations in his blog. On Nov. 21, he entered his personal information on the exchange site and received an error message. He finally gave up and called the DC exchange’s help line. 

In an update he notes: “They called back a few hours later, and after re-starting the process on the website two more times, I just heard from DC Health Link that I have been successfully enrolled.” Of course, a photographer was on hand to record him sitting at his terminal.

In Washington, politics is never far from policy, especially when it comes to Obamacare.

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