Make Congress pay for its healthcare

  • 1 August 2017
  • NormanL
Make Congress pay for its healthcare

Amidst the wreckage of the GOP's attempt to repeal Obamacare last week comes a possible bright spot: the President could end Congress' Obamacare subsidies -- in effect, making them pay the entire bill for their health insurance. As the Spectator's David Catron writes:

This refers, of course, to the special dispensation that protects every member of both houses, as well as the people who work in their teeming staff offices, from the depredations of Obamacare. This exemption was created when Trump’s predecessor directed the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to classify Congress as a small business, and unknown congressional staffers submitted a fraudulent application to the D.C. Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) exchange claiming that the House and Senate employ only 45 people each.

Among the most mysterious, not to mention suspicious, features of this legal sleight-of-hand involves precisely who submitted the fraudulent application. If you open the above link, it will become obvious why the term “unknown congressional staffers” is used here. All of the names on the application have been redacted. When the Chairman of the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee attempted to subpoena the D.C. SHOP exchange for an unexpurgated copy, five Republican Senators voted with the committee’s Democrats to quash the subpoena. Who says there’s no bipartisanship in the Senate?

Voter surveys have consistently shown that a huge majority of Americans disapprove of this skulduggery. One poll conducted shortly after it came to light showed that 92 percent of voters believe “it is unfair that Congress should be exempt from buying their insurance in the health exchanges.” The President can eliminate this congressional exemption by simply instructing the OPM to rescind Obama’s directive and issue a new rule that requires members of Congress and their staff to buy coverage through an Obamacare exchange. The voters would certainly consider that to be condign punishment for congressional inaction on repeal.

Were Congress a genuine small business, it would have gone bankrupt decades ago. But we are forced to wonder why members of Congress haven't raced to the nearest TV studio or press gaggle to promise a full and exhaustive investigation into who filed these mysterious papers declaring it a small business in the first place.

Actually, we get why they haven't done so. Congress has no interest in drawing attention to its own abuses of process and policy. It wouldn't just be inconvenient, it might also generate bad headlines back home, and worse, possible challengers in primaries.

Still we are intrigued by the idea that the White House could bring a quick end to this charade and force members and their staffers to cough up the full cost of their health insurance. At the very least, it gives Congress a personal stake in repeal (beyond their career prospects). It's simple enough, and has the right incentives, to actually work.

And even if it doesn't, it ends an unnecessary drain on the public treasury.