Exempting Congress from Obamacare

by John McClaughry

Four years ago President Obama exempted Congressional members and staff from the Obamacare health insurance exchanges. Under a subsection of the Affordable Care Act, the Democrats – not a single Republican voted for the bill – voted themselves out of its own employer-sponsored Federal Employees Health Benefits Program.

The provision required members and House and Senate staff to enroll in the new health insurance exchanges created for other Americans under the law.

But in 2013 the Obama Office of Personnel Management decided to treat the 535 lawmakers and their more than 13,000 staffers as if they were a small business employing fewer than 50 workers. Then they would be exempt from the DC Exchange and relocated to the more advantageous exchange for small businesses. In 2015 a Federal judge rejected a challenge to this by Judicial Watch, citing vagueness in the statute, but a week ago Trump tweeted that he could take away the exemption.

Let’s dial back four decades here. Freshman Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont made a huge splash in Vermont media by declaring to much applause that members of Congress should live under the same rules as the people who are paying them.

Funny thing, I haven’t heard senior senator Patrick Leahy standing firm for this principle lately – in fact, not for over thirty years. Perhaps his 42 years on the Congressional payroll has changed his mind. Maybe we need a new champion to resurrect Leahy’s abandoned principle.

- John McClaughry is president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

George Gray August 8, 2017 at 8:40 pm

Saying we need a new champion is the understate of the year! Anyone but Leahy.


John August 9, 2017 at 3:07 pm

No, it didn’t take long for him to forget why he was elected; his idealism lasted right up to that point where he realized, when you’re elected in Vermont, it’s for life.


Fred August 12, 2017 at 9:17 am

That “New Champion” is being groomed right now for the fossils replacement, and from what I see, he’s not going to be any different.


Jim Bulmer August 12, 2017 at 12:58 pm

Where did I read somewhere that the Congress should pass no law from which its members would be exempt? Or was it someone’s wishful thinking?


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The Ethan Allen Institute is Vermont’s free-market public policy research and education organization. Founded in 1993, we are one of fifty-plus similar but independent state-level, public policy organizations around the country which exchange ideas and information through the State Policy Network.

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