Congress exempts itself from the law
Members of Congress are brazenly insisting the laws they pass apply to everyone but themselves.
Republicans and Democrats, who can agree on almost nothing else, are planning to exempt themselves and their staff from Sect. 1312 (d) of the Affordable Care Act that requires them to get their health insurance on the newly created insurance exchanges and pay the same premiums the public will have to pay.
Currently, members of Congress and their staff are covered by plans they chose through the Federal Employees Health Benefit Program, with taxpayers picking up 75 percent of the tab. The thinking behind the new requirement is that what’s good enough for the public ought to be good enough for Congress.
Sadly, Washington lawmakers don’t agree. They claim that despite their generous salaries (members earn $174,000), they can’t afford Obamacare premiums. What the government deems “affordable” for the rest of us isn’t affordable for them.
For example, in New York City, a family of three with a household income of $80,000 will be required to pay a whopping $12,784 for the second cheapest silver plan with a $3,000 deductible. This family won’t be eligible for a tax credit. Washington says $12,784 is “affordable” for them. But not for a member of Congress with more than double that income. Under the scheme the lawmakers are pushing, they would have to pay only $3,193 for the same plan.
Nothing in the Affordable Care Act allows this break for members of Congress and their staff. But for weeks, lawmakers from both parties — who can agree on nothing else — have been conspiring to weasel out of paying what the public has to pay. On this one issue, Republicans and Democrats are thick as thieves. They’ve even recruited President Obama to get personally involved. The president has enlisted the help of the Office of Personnel Management. Just to make sure OPM produces a remedy, Republicans in the Senate have put a hold on the nomination of the next director of the Office of Personnel Management until the issue is resolved.
Members of Congress say they’re entitled because Obamacare forced them to give up their on-the-job coverage. Join the club with millions of other Americans. Even before Congress voted to pass Obamacare, the Congressional Budget Office warned that between 7 and 8 million people would lose coverage at work because of the law.
McKinsey and Company management consultants predicted many more.
Congress didn’t rush to protect these private sector employees who would get saddled with paying for exchange plans. Now Congress should get a taste of its own medicine.
Congress also needs a refresher course on the U.S. Constitution and the principles that make this nation free.
Principle 1: What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. In Federalist No. 57, the chief architect of the U.S. Constitution James Madison explained that the new nation would remain free only so long lawmakers had to live by the same laws they imposed on the public.
Principle 2: In this nation, the rule of law is supposed to be king, not Mr. Obama. Unfortunately, people in Washington look the other way when Obama grabs more authority than the Constitution allows. He handed out 1,472 waivers exempting certain unions and employers from the earliest provisions of Obamacare, though nothing in the law permitted it. Then he delayed the employer mandate, though the law states that it will take effect on Jan. 1, 2014. That lawless move shifts billions of dollars in insurance costs from employers onto taxpayers. Now Obama is signaling that he will arrange for taxpayer-funded subsidies for lawmakers and staff. That’s a clear violation of the law. Only Congress can appropriate the people’s money to fund such subsidies
Members of Congress who accept these crony payments, instead of paying for Obamacare like the public has to, should wind up on a roster of shame circulated to voters before the 2014 midterm elections. No one should be re-elected to Congress who is unwilling to live by the laws imposed on the rest of us.
Betsy McCaughey is a former lieutenant governor of New York, founder of the Committee to Reduce Infection Deaths and the author of “Beating Obamacare.”