No, no, I don't want it repealed, but Senator Vitter's (R-LA) plan to make all staff in the Congress and Executive Branch -- including our President -- purchase insurance policies on the 'marketplace' ACA exchanges -- with only the same subsidies that you or I would receive for being below 400% of poverty -- is about basic fairness. From Heritage:
Because of hasty legislative maneuvering, sloppy drafting, and an inability or unwillingness to focus on the consequences of what they were doing, Members of Congress who voted for Obamacare managed to dump themselves out of their existing coverage. Under Section 1312 of the law, they are to be enrolled in health insurance exchange plans, and will lose existing coverage in the popular and successful Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP). And just like millions of other Americans dumped out of their existing coverage, they lose their employer’s subsidy for insurance plus the generous federal and state tax breaks that accompany employer-based coverage. But the Obama Administration recently “fixed” that for them by providing special subsidies for Members and congressional staff to reduce their premium costs in the Obamacare exchanges.Here's the deal: basically the Affordable Care Act requires that members of Congress -- and their staff -- purchase policies on the ACA exchanges. This was originally a 'poison pill' amendment proposed by Republicans to punish Democrats for ObamaCare. Well, to a progressive, this amendment should make perfect sense. And we should be outraged that the Obama Administration proposed a rule change to allow the government to continue providing employer insurance subsidies -- much greater than those offered to regular citizens by the Affordable Care Act -- for Congressional staff.
Vitter’s amendment would overturn this recent action. That would be appropriate because there is no statutory authority, either in Obamacare or in Title V of the U.S Code, for the U.S. Office of Personnel Management to make government insurance contributions on behalf of federal employees to any plan other than an FEHBP plan. Curiously, the original health care law provided for employers to make a defined contribution for workers in the exchanges (a “free choice voucher”), but Congress scrapped it.
Why did Congress demand this rule change? Well, they cried foul that poor, poor sons and daughters of wealthy elites working on Capitol Hill (suffering in 'small apartments' and 'shared houses') would leave the halls of Congress for private industry if they were forced to shoulder more of the cost of their health care. And, as is often the case when powerful people are involved, those crying foul got their way.
In other words, a McDonald's shift manager paid $30,000 a year in Washington DC will pay a lot more for the same health insurance policy on the DC exchange than a staff assistant on Capitol Hill also making the exact same income.
This selfish behavior -- which Heritage is rightfully calling out -- highlights two things: (1) The continued rewards of being an elite in America. Remember, many of the 'staff assistants' on Capitol are already sons and daughters of great privilege, unlike those working in McDonald's or Target in DC. (2) The insanity of tying how much one pays for his or her health insurance, as well as the quality of that insurance, to one's specific employment situation.
With that in mind, how is the Senator's amendment not just plain fair?
During Senate floor debate on energy legislation last week, Louisiana Senator David Vitter (R) proposed an amendment that would end Obamacare exemptions and special taxpayer subsidies for Congress. His amendment is cosponsored by Senators Mike Enzi (R-WY), Mike Lee (R-UT), Ron Johnson (R- WI), Dean Heller (R-NV), and Jim Inhofe (R-OK). The prospect of having to vote on Vitter’s amendment shut down floor debate on the bill last week.Remember, one reason we don't have single-payer Medicare-for-All in America is that elites in our country currently benefit from a health care system where they enjoy excellent insurance with little wait for care, because others are not allowed to participate in the system -- for reasons of ill health or poverty.
Vitter’s amendment would do two things. First, the President, Vice President, Cabinet secretaries, and all political appointees—the policymaking agents of the executive branch—would be enrolled in the health insurance exchanges, just like millions of other Americans. Second, Members of Congress and their staffs—including all committee and leadership office staff—would also be enrolled in the health insurance exchanges under the same terms and conditions as other Americans. In other words, Congress and its staff would not get any special subsidies at taxpayer expense for their health insurance.
Perhaps, if Congress and Executive Branch employees are finally forced to purchase the same junk insurance -- with high deductibles and cost-sharing -- as regular Americans, we'll finally see health care getting better for everyone in this country.