Politics & Policy

Washington’s Obamacare Exemption

The political class shouldn’t get special treatment.

Unless we make a change, Washington insiders will get a special exemption from Obamacare when it goes into effect on October 1.

A specific provision of the health-care law says that members of Congress and their staffs are required to procure their health-care coverage on the Obamacare exchange, just like millions of Americans. But the millions of Americans who will be forced into the exchange will not get employer subsidies to contribute to the cost of their exchange policy. That’s in Obamacare. That’s the law.

Recently, in a classic case of Washington protecting its own, the Obama administration announced an illegal administrative fix for this provision regarding Congress, in order to take all of the sting out. This special rule, with no basis in the Obamacare statute, would allow members of Congress to keep most or all of their staff members off the exchange entirely. Members of Congress who do decide to go on the exchange would get a huge taxpayer-funded subsidy (about $5,000 for single workers or about $10,000 for families) unavailable to all other Americans at the same income levels going on the exchange. This creates a special Obamacare exemption for members of Congress and congressional staff.

The Obamacare statute states very clearly that all members of Congress and their staffs are to procure their health insurance through the Obamacare exchange. Just as clearly, it does not provide for government support of their present coverage under the separate Federal Employees Health Benefits Plan to continue on the exchange. In fact, Section 1512 of the statute says clearly that employees going on the exchange lose their previous employer subsidies. That’s why this special rule for Congress is illegal.

Folks in Washington are arguing that the political class deserves some extra help when faced with the onerous costs of health care. They’re ignoring the harsh reality the rest of America faces. Eight million Americans are losing their employer contribution to their health care.

To bring Washington back to the rest of America, I’ve introduced legislation that would end its Obamacare exemption. It would reverse the illegal Office of Personnel Management rule by requiring all members of Congress, the president, the vice president, and all political appointees in the administration to purchase their health insurance on the Obamacare exchange — without the help of special taxpayer-funded subsidies.

Of course, lots of folks in the U.S. Senate feel deeply threatened by my legislation. Majority Leader Harry Reid has taken to name-calling, saying I’m an “anarchist” and “mean-spirited.” He and Senate Democrats want so badly to protect their illegal Obamacare exemption that they’re trying to bribe members of Congress by threatening to take away the subsidy for folks who support my amendment while preserving it for those who oppose the amendment. It’s clear that they’re nervous about the idea of actually having to live under all of the Obamacare provisions themselves.

If Democrats in Washington are going to force Obamacare on the rest of America, they need to live by its provisions, too. Maybe then they’d see what a train wreck the law really is — and exempt all of America from it.

—Senator David Vitter (R., La.) is the ranking Republican on the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.



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