House, Senate Bills Would Prohibit OPM from Subsidizing Obamacare for Congress

Craig Bannister
By Craig Bannister | August 26, 2013 | 5:55 PM EDT

Rep. Ron DeSantis (FL-06) announced Monday that he will introduce a bill in response to the Office of Personnel Management's ruling that members of Congress and their staffs will receive a special taxpayer-financed subsidy not available to other Americans using health care exchanges.

DeSantis' bill, theJames Madison Congressional Accountability Act, would prohibit members of Congress and congressional staff from receiving any government contributions with respect to an exchange-based health care plan that is not available to the American people.

"Although many members of Congress don't like it, the text of ObamaCare makes members share the same fate as the millions of Americans who will see their employer-based health insurance arrangements upended due to this ill-conceived law," Rep. DeSantis said.

"The Obama administration cannot override the law and grant special subsidies to members of Congress and their staffs.  It is also patently unfair -- and contrary to our founding principles -- to grant special relief to members of the governing class while leaving the rest of America to bear the costs."

On the Senate side, Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., and Sen. David Vitter, R-La., today announced they will introduce legislation in September to reverse and clarify the recent decision by the Office of Personnel and Management (OPM) on Obamacare. Their legislation will require that all Members of Congress, the President, Vice President, and all political appointees in the Administration must purchase their health insurance on the Obamacare Exchange without the help of taxpayer-funded subsidies. Congressional staff would be prohibited from receiving any contribution greater than what they would receive if they were not employed by a congressional office.

"If Obamacare is good enough for the American people, it should be good enough for Congress, the President and Vice President, and other policy makers in Washington," Enzi said. "I've said from the beginning that this law wouldn't work and we see that proof daily with the endless exemptions, delays, and subsidies being authorized by the President. There's no excuse for trying to let certain individuals and businesses off the hook when the American people are already paying the price of bad policy."

"These recent maneuverings inside the beltway are precisely why the American people rightly despise Congress," Vitter said. "Our legislation gets right to the core of the OPM "fix" for Washington. Some of our colleagues may try some slick maneuver to avoid political backlash by allowing Members to hide their exemption from the public, but our amendment is clear."

On August 2, 2013 immediately after Congress adjourned, the Office of Personnel Management, under heavy pressure from Congressional leaders, announced they will issue regulations saying that the government can continue to make the employer contribution to the health plans of congressional members and staff.

The Vitter-Enzi legislation will clarify eligibility for subsidies and employer contribution for members and their staff under Obamacare. Pursuant of the recent proposed rule, a legislative fix is needed to prevent lawmakers and their staff from getting special treatment under the law.  Absent these legislative changes, Congress and the administration can essentially shield themselves from higher costs, limited access, and more confusion.

The legislation will do the following:

  • Clarifies that Members do not have the authority to define "official staff" and can thereby not exempt any of their staff from going into the exchange (current Senate rules and the OPM proposal gives discretion to the individual offices).
  • Clarifies that Members of Congress, all staff, President, Vice President, and political appointees are no longer eligible for Federal Employees Health Benefits Plan (FEHBP) and must go into the exchange.
  • Prohibits Members, political appointees, President and Vice President from receiving tax-payer funded contributions in the form of subsidies, tax credits, or employer contribution to purchase insurance on the exchange- as in most of these cases they earn well above the maximum income ($43,000 individual/$92,000 family) and would otherwise be ineligible for subsidies or tax credits as defined in the statute.

Click here to read the legislation.


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