by Alice Dubenetsky
Did Congress really receive an exemption from the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) for Members and their more highly paid staffers? Yes, although FactCheck .org originally issued a scoffing denial of the truth, and liberal websites first denied, and then defended the fact.
FactCheck.org originally reported that they had contacted the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and received the following statement:
“Members of Congress will not receive anything that is not available to the public. The law doesn’t allow them to get insurance from FEHB, they are going to get insurance on the market place, just like uninsured individuals and small businesses.”
Fact.Check.org went on to say, “We can’t say what did or didn’t happen in any secret meetings. But we can say that no bill has been introduced to exempt members of Congress from the Affordable Care Act — and they were never exempt in the first place. Even if, hypothetically, Congress were to nullify the provision requiring members and their staffs to get insurance on the exchanges, it still wouldn’t amount to an exemption from the law. Lawmakers and staffers would be subject to the mandate to have health insurance or pay a fine, just as everyone else is.”
They denied that that the Obama administration was applying pressure to the Office of Personnel Management to continue to make payments to lawmakers and their staff, even though the ACA as passed specifically prohibited the contributions. Before final passage of the bill, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R Iowa) inserted an amendment to the ACA requiring members of Congress and their staff to enroll in the ACA’s insurance exchanges, so they could experience first-hand what effects that the law would have on the rest of the country. When the bill was signed into law, so was Grassley’s amendment. Who would have the nerve to oppose it at that stage? But as implementation of the Individual Mandate neared, lawmakers and their staff began to panic. Without the subsidies, the Members and staffers would have had to pay steep out-of-pocket premiums to maintain their benefit levels. There was talk of a “brain drain” from the halls of Congress if staffers quit to take more highly paid jobs in the private sector. The real world was poking its ugly nose into the rarified atmosphere of Capitol Hill and it was ugly and smelly and an intolerable intrusion to the powerful geniuses who toil therein.
When the Office of Personnel Management claimed “no bill has ever been introduced to exempt members of Congress from the Affordable Care Act” they were correct.
Even Congress wouldn’t dare.
But happily, just in the nick of time, in rides the Obama Administration, waving a wand (or big stick) at the OPM that magically, and illegally, exempts Congress and their higher paid staffers from the rigors of the ACA, by continuing the taxpayer funded subsidies to their insurance plans. Now, everyone in the Kingdom That Congress Has Become can live happily ever after with their continuing government subsidies, while the average working American remains at the mercy of the mounting intended and unintended consequences of Affordable Care Act.
So, the answer to the original question above is, ‘Yes”. Congress and their staff are indeed exempt from the ACA, and a screaming irony attaches to the fact that same Democrats in Congress who unanimously crammed this life-changing bill down the throats of the American people without understanding it, properly debating it, or even reading it, are now realizing how bad it could have been. For them. Whew.