(CNSNews.com) – At a Wednesday press conference to announce the filing of a lawsuit challenging health insurance coverage for members of Congress through the District of Columbia’s small business exchange, Judicial Watch President Thomas Fitton called the arrangement “fraud.”
Fitton based his remarks on the D.C. law requiring small businesses to have 50 employees or less to get insurance through the small business exchange, and on documents obtained by the government watchdog group through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the District of Columbia Health Benefit Exchange Authority.
“The documents we’ve obtained from the D.C. Health exchange show that every member of Congress who is enrolled in Obamacare has obtained their insurance coverage and any taxpayers subsidies through fraud,” Fitton said at the event at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.
“The District of Columbia government should not be a party to this fraud and should stop allowing Congress to participate in an exchange created for small D.C. businesses,” he said.
Local [D.C.] tax dollars are “helping to further this fraud,” Fitton said.
“At least 12,359 members of Congress, Congressional staffers and their spouses and dependents currently purchase health insurance in D.C.’s small business exchange even though Congress far exceeds D.C. law’s 50 employee limit for participating in the exchange,” Fitton said.
He added that with a total of 14,289 people signed up through the small business exchange, members of Congress, staff, spouses and dependants make up about 86 percent of all enrollees between October 2013 and September 2014.
Among the documents obtained by Judicial Watch are applications submitted to the D.C. exchange by the House of Representatives and the Senate. The applications show that the signers, which were redacted on the FOIA documents, must “attest that I employ 50 or fewer full-time employers.”
On the Nov. 25, 2013 House application, the first name given is “Twenty” and the last name given is “Congress.” The date of birth is listed at 01/01/1994.
The lawsuit, filed on behalf of D.C. resident and taxpayer Kirby Vining, was filed with the Superior Court of the District of Columbia Civil Division on Wednesday. It names Mila Kofman, executive director of the D.C. Health Benefit Exchange Authority, and the authority itself as defendants.
As CNSNews.com reported on Nov. 5, 2013, the Executive Branch’s Office of Personnel Management issued a federal regulation allowing Congress to be treated as a small business, even if Congress employs more than 11,000 staffers and spent $4,329,000,000 on its own operations in fiscal 2013.
The regulation says in part: “OPM has determined that the DC SHOP, known as the DC Health Link Small Business Market administered by the DC Health Benefit Exchange Authority, is the appropriate SHOP from which Members of Congress and designated congressional staff will purchase health insurance in order to receive a Government contribution. OPM intends to work with the DC Health Benefits Exchange to implement this rule.”
CNSNews.com also reported on federal subsidies to help members of Congress pay for their Obamacare plan through OPM’s regulation.
The OPM created the regulation “so that the Treasury can pay federal subsidies of up to $11,378 per year to help members of the House and Senate and their staff buy health-insurance plans in the Obamacare ‘Small Business Health Options Program’ (SHOP) Marketplace set up for ‘small employers’ in Washington, D.C.
“The regulation treats this federal tax subsidy paid by the U.S. Treasury as if it were an ‘employer contribution’ made by the owner of a small business,” CNSNews.com reported.
Fitton said he hopes the court rules in his client’s favor.
“We’re asking the court to declare that the House and the Senate’s participation in the Small Business Exchange be unlawful,” Fitton said.
That client said he looks forward to his “day in court.”
“The District government should obey its own legal mandate and stop allowing Congress to participate in an exchange created to help small D.C. businesses,” said Vining, who is a retired federal worker. “I’m looking forward to having my day in court to hold the District government accountable to the law. ”