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Guest Editorial: Peter J. Thomas & Peter Ferrara
October 18, 2013

Should Congressional Employees Be Exempt from Obamacare?
by Peter J. Thomas & Peter Ferrara
fitzgerald griffin foundation

WASHINGTON, D.C. — If Obamacare is so good, why was Congress crying to President Obama for an illegal exemption, which he freely granted?

When Congress passed Obamacare in 2010, it stated that Congress and its staff would be subject to it the same as everyone else. That is only fair that they should live under the same rules that they imposed on everyone else.

But Obamacare does not go into effect until next year. And as that fateful moment approached, panic spread across the halls of Congress, as it has for much of America, as the realization dawned as to what that would mean for them.

Obamacare provides that those buying health insurance on the Exchanges cannot receive subsidies from their employers to help pay for it. They can only receive instead the taxpayer financed Obamacare subsidies to help pay for the highly expensive health insurance Obamacare requires.

But that Obamacare health insurance welfare is mostly focused on low and moderate income families, though those making close to $100,000 a year can still receive some Obamacare welfare. The problem in Congress is that the Members and even some of their staffers make $174,000 a year, more than three times the national average.

For anyone in the Exchanges making that much, there will be no taxpayer subsidies under Obamacare. They will be forced to pay the full cost of the highly expensive Obamacare health insurance, with all of the costly requirements Obama and his Democrats have imposed.


If Obamacare is so good, why was Congress crying to President Obama for an illegal exemption, which he freely granted?

For many people, the full cost of that insurance will be double or more current market rates. In the Obamacare Exchanges, all of that will be paid for by the workers themselves, or by the taxpayers. That full cost of the Obamacare insurance will cost Congress and their staffs, and their families, roughly $5,000 to $11,000 a year. But Washington Insiders take care of their own.

Congress and their staffs, and federal employees generally, have enjoyed their own special health insurance deal, the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program (FEHBP), financed mostly by the taxpayers. It is a good deal for Congress and federal employees, with each choosing among a wide range of different health insurance plans, free of Obamacare.

As the weeping and wailing in the halls of Congress reached the ears of the Obama Administration, not to worry came the reply. During the August recess, when the rest of America was out enjoying the last rites of summer, President Obama quietly ordered the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to rule that the generous, taxpayer financed, health insurance subsidies of the FEHBP program would also apply to any federal employees, including Congress and their staffs, on the Obamacare Exchanges.

This OPM ruling is flatly contrary to the express language of the Obamacare law, and is consequently illegal. As Senator David Vitter (R-LA) has explained,

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

But Senator Vitter has introduced legislation to reverse Obama's illegal OPM ruling, and apply the Obamacare law as written and enacted, removing Congress's special exemption. His bill requires all Members of Congress, and their staffs, and the President, and the Vice-President, and all political appointees of the Obama Administration, to comply with all of the requirements of Obamacare that they have imposed on everyone else.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) responded by calling Vitter an "anarchist" playing "really juvenile political games" for insisting that Congress and Obama follow the law, and the same rules as everyone else.


House Republicans have tried to repeal the special Obamacare exemption for Congress, but Sen. Harry Reid and his troops have so far rejected the measure.

But the public overwhelming disagrees with Reid. A poll sponsored by Independent Women's Voice found that 93% of likely voters, including 88% of Democrats, oppose the Congressional exemption from Obamacare.

In the continuing battle over the CR, House Republicans have tried to repeal the special Obamacare exemption for Congress, but Sen. Harry Reid and his troops have so far rejected the measure.

With the American public furious at how the Washington elites take care of themselves, the issue isn't going away any time soon. If the Republicans were smart, they would attach Senator Vitter's bill to every piece of legislation passed by the House.

As the pressure continues to build across the country, at some point the guardians of privilege will be forced to give up their subsidy, and learn how it feels to be an ordinary American living under the Obamacare monster they created.

Peter J. Thomas is Chairman of The Conservative Caucus. Peter Ferrara is a Senior Fellow at the National Center for Policy Analysis, Senior Policy Advisor on Entitlement Reform and the Budget for the National Tax Limitation Foundation, and a Senior Fellow at the Heartland Institute.
© 2013 Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation