End the Obamacare Exemption for Congress

Background: Back in 2013, the Obama administration’s Office of Personnel Management (OPM) exempted members of Congress and their staff from the full burden of Obamacare by letting them enroll in the D.C. small business exchange to receive taxpayer subsidized plans, even though a small business was defined as fewer than 50 employees. Now, as millions of Americans continue to watch their health insurance premiums increase, members of Congress and their staffs remain exempt from the rising costs.

Problem: Indicative of the lawlessness of the Obama administration, Congress actually pleaded behind closed doors for the president to grant them a special exemption. Although Obamacare was signed into law in 2010, its provisions that pertain to Congress were phased in years later — just when Obamacare was starting to unravel. With their personal interest now at stake, members took a closer look at what the law required of them. A Heritage Foundation legal memoexplained at the time:

“One such provision is Section 1312(d)(3)(D), which reads: ‘Notwithstanding any other provision of law … the only health plans that the Federal Government may make available to Members of Congress and congressional staff … shall be health plans that are … created under this Act … or … offered through an Exchange established under this Act….’. Under this provision, it is clear that Members of Congress and their staff should lose their current employer-sponsored health insurance program.”

Members and their staff were initially required to opt-into Obamacare; however, President Obama’s OPM stepped in at the last minute to grant a taxpayer subsidized exemption — by redefining Congress to qualify as a “small business” under a separate part of the law. Heritage
Action explained in a coalition letter:

“Obama directed OPM to issue a rule purporting that Congress, which has thousands of employees, is a small business and therefore: ‘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.’”

This maneuvering is the exact problem in Washington, D.C. — premiums double for the American people and Congress illegally forces taxpayers to subsidize their premiums.

Solution: Fortunately, just as the Obama administration’s OPM unilaterally established the Congressional exemption, so also can the Trump administration’s OPM rescind the rule. A coalition of conservative groups, including Heritage Action, sent a letter to President Trump on July 21, 2017, urging the President to take this step. Weeks later, the Senate essentially abandoned its effort to repeal and replace Obamacare.

If the Republican-controlled Senate cannot deliver on their promise to repeal and replace Obamacare, President Trump should subject Congress to the full brunt of the law until they do so. Trump should unilaterally undo Obama’s illegal exemption, requiring members of Congress to live under the law it forced onto the American people. Facing the reality of double-digit premium increases, Congress may feel pressure to come back to the negotiating table and follow through on years of promises to finally end the Obamacare nightmare.