Written by Bob Moffit
No argument for Obamacare’s repeal can top the simple fact that Members of Congress do not want it to apply to them.
Today’s Politico reports that the House and Senate congressional leadership—both Democrats and Republicans working in cahoots with Obama Administration officials—have been secretly negotiating for months trying to find a way to exempt Members of Congress and their staffs from being forced into Obamacare’s health insurance exchanges.
Beginning on January 1, 2014, these exchanges, to be run by the federal government or the states (under federal rules) will offer federally “qualified” insurance coverage for millions of Americans. Ordinary Americans must either sign up or face a tax penalty. Senator Max Baucus (D–MT), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, has now famously described the Obama’s Administration’s implementation of this process as an oncoming “train wreck,” and Henry Chao, an Administration official involved with the implementation of the law, just hopes that Americans can avoid a “third-world experience.”
According to the Politico story, there are two major reasons why Members of Congress want to exempt themselves and their staffs from the terms and conditions of the law:
They fear higher health care costs. Congressional leaders fear that being forced into the Obamacare exchanges will result in higher health care costs for themselves and their families and their aides. “The problem stems from whether members and aides set to enter the exchanges would have their health insurance premiums subsidized by their employer—in this case the federal government.” This is also true for millions of ordinary Americans. They could also lose their employer-based coverage, and they could also face higher costs. Also contrary to the President’s promises, independent analysts expect health insurance premiums to rise sharply, particularly for younger workers and their families.
They fear the impact on Capitol Hill employment. “There is concern in some quarters that the provision requiring lawmakers and staffers to join the exchanges, if it isn’t revised, could lead to a ‘brain drain’ on Capitol Hill, as several sources close to the talks put it.” Given the insane spending and record deficits, it’s hard to imagine how a Capitol Hill “brain drain” could produce even worse government. But ordinary Americans who run businesses are also faced with anxieties, particularly whether they will be able to hire or retain valued employees or reduce full-time workers to part-time employees in order to avoid Obamacare’s mandatory costs.
For veteran Capitol Hill watchers, shenanigans behind closed doors to enable Congress and its staffers to escape Obamacare come as no surprise. After all, the national health care law was fashioned through repulsive backroom dealing (the “Cornhusker Kickback,” the “Louisiana Purchase,” etc.) that set a record for arrogance and contempt of popular opinion. Favored businesses and unions got special exemptions (more than 1,200 waivers) from Obamacare’s insurance rules. So consider today’s Politico revelation just marquee for a rerun of a tiresome old movie: one set of rules for Congress and another set of rules for the rest of us.
If Congress quietly wants to exempt itself from Obamacare, that’s great—so long as it includes the rest of us in that midnight amendment.
Bob Moffit has been a veteran of Washington policymaking for more than 25 years, and is Director of The Heritage Foundation's Center for Health Policy Studies. A former senior official at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Office of Personnel Management during the Reagan administration, Moffit specializes in Medicare reform, health insurance, and other health policy issues.