Here’s a simple democratic principle: Those who make the laws should be subject to the laws they make.
The Problem. President Obama, the White House staff, Cabinet secretaries, and all of the Administration’s political appointees are exempt from any legal requirement to enroll in Obamacare’s health insurance exchanges. While Members of Congress and their personal staffs are required to enroll in Obamacare’s exchanges, the White House, through questionable administrative action, is providing them hefty taxpayer subsidies to offset the resultant increase in their personal health care costs. In other words, Washington’s arrogant political class is getting exemptions or special treatment denied to ordinary Americans.
One Solution. 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.
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.
The Equity. The Vitter Amendment is equitable. It targets only Washington’s political class, those who make policy for the national government. Federal employees, all career civil servants, would not be deprived of their current private health insurance plans through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP). Vitter’s approach is only fair: Capitol Hill cops, National Park Rangers, and Secret Service agents and their families are not responsible for Obamacare. Washington’s political class and allied big special interest lobbyists are responsible. And until this bad law is fully repealed, the President’s team and Congress should submit fully to its multiple and costly requirements, just like everybody else.
The Justice. 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.
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.
Millions of Americans are going to be losing their existing coverage and paying more for health insurance. Under the Vitter Amendment, so would the Obama Administration’s appointees, Congress, and congressional staff. They baked that cake. Now they can eat it, too.