Republican Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin will file a lawsuit to ensure that Congress and its staff experience “the harsh realities” of the health care law just like everybody else. The issue revolves around a special exemption that members of Congress would receive when they acquire health coverage under the Affordable Care Act’s exchange system.
In The Wall Street Journal, Johnson opined that part of the selling point that Obamacare supporters conveyed was that the new system would be good enough to replace the Federal Employee Health Benefit Plan that congressional staff and members have benefited from up until this point — with no added perks necessary. “Unlike millions of their countrymen who have lost coverage and must now purchase insurance through an exchange, members and their staffs will receive an employer contribution to help pay for their new plans,” Johnson wrote. “It is clear,” he added, “that this special treatment, via a ruling by the president's Office of Personnel Management [OPM], was deliberately excluded in the [original health care] law.”
Johnson expressed his dismay at what he views is an inherent contradiction that goes beyond legal boundaries. According to his commentary, many members and staff of Congress would only have an income-based subsidy that would go toward purchasing insurance in the exchange. This meant that they would not have the benefit of paying for health care with pretax dollars, which is possible with employer-provided plans.
This disparity, according to Johnson, was retro-actively changed by a “convoluted ruling” last October that defines the federal government as a small employer, which “magically” qualified members of Congress for coverage through a Small Business Health Options Program. This meant that the government is defined as an employer of people in Congress and can thus buy insurance for them.
“Neat trick, huh?” Johnson wrote. “In directing OPM to do so, President Obama once again chose political expediency instead of faithfully executing the law — even one of his own making. If the president wants to change the law, he needs to come to Congress to have them change it with legislation, not by presidential fiat or decree.”
Johnson claimed that by being a member of Congress who will benefit from this change, he is being forced to break the law as well as alienate his constituents who won’t appreciate this “special treatment.” This consequence is likely to be part of the proof he will need to provide to show how the policy does him harm, Politico reports.
“I believe,” Johnson concluded in this op-ed, “that I have not only legal standing but an obligation to go to court to overturn this unlawful executive overreach, end the injustice, and provide a long overdue check on an executive that recognizes fewer and fewer constitutional restraints.”