Monday, July 24, 2017

Force Congress’s Hand On Health Care

Lawmakers and their staff should have to buy insurance on the exchanges—the way the law requires.


By Heather R. Higgins
The Wall Street Journal
July 24, 2017

If President Trump is serious about repealing ObamaCare—about delivering a better policy with more choice and lower costs—there’s a simple move he could make that wouldn’t require congressional approval. It would align the interests of lawmakers and their staffers with the interests of voters.

Congress is essentially unaffected by the high costs of the ObamaCare exchanges because of a special exemption crafted under the Obama administration. The Affordable Care Act required members of Congress and their employees to participate in the health-insurance exchanges it established. They should have lost the generous coverage they had in the Federal Employees Health Benefit Program and instead bought one of the government-mandated options offered on the ACA exchanges.

In late 2012, staffers and members figured out what was about to happen and begged the Obama administration for relief. Just as Congress was going into its August recess in 2013, the Office of Personnel Management ratified the fiction that the House and Senate each have fewer than 50 employees, and thus qualify as “small businesses.” That enabled OPM to establish a system of special subsidies and exemptions, sparing Congress the embarrassment of a self-serving vote.

Many staffers are exempted and allowed to remain on their old insurance plans. Members of Congress and their designated “official office” staff are insured through the District of Columbia’s small business exchange—but they receive a one-of-a-kind subsidy from their employer (taxpayers) of up to $12,000, or about 70% of their premiums.

All that would be illegal for anyone else. In fact, it’s illegal for Congress too. But since it was established administratively, it can be ended the same way. The president should announce that he is instructing OPM to end the exemption and subsidies for Congress.

This is smart politics. One poll found 94% of voters opposed the special deal for Congress. It would also lead to smart policy: Any continued failure to reform health care means members of Congress and their staff would suffer under the current system. If the president does this, he’d have huge negotiating leverage. He would align the interests of the ruling class with those of his voters, forcing Congress to act. He might even get some Democratic votes.


Article Link To The WSJ: