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Congress Gets Its Own Obamacare Waiver

Congress passed the Obamacare law but won’t have to live under it. My thoughts at this turn of events are unprintable

“Lawmakers and staff can breathe easy – their health care tab is not going to soar next year.

The Office of Personnel Management, under heavy pressure from Capitol Hill, will issue  regulations saying that the government can continue to make the employer contribution to the health plans of members and aides, according to several Hill sources.”

Politico’s headline on its story about the “fix” is hilarious:

“Capitol Hill’s Obamacare crisis solved”

America’s Obamacare crisis remains very much unsolved.

The OPM’s move is illegal. Congress passed an amendment to Obamacare that mandated that Congress and staff had to abide by it themselves. OPM doesn’t have the power to change the law any more than Obama had the power to delay the employer mandate.

As Obamacare fundamentally transforms our health care system, it’s also fundamentally transforming the nation itself. We were once a nation of laws. Now we’re a nation of the whims of bureaucrats.

The only fix here is to repeal the entire thing. Defund it. Repeal it. Rip it out root and branch. Obamacare delenda est.

The Politico

August 2, 2013

Capitol Hill’s Obamacare crisis solved

John Bresnahan and Jake Sherman

Lawmakers and staff can breathe easy — their health care tab is not going to soar next year.

The Office of Personnel Management, under heavy pressure from Capitol Hill, will issue a ruling that says the government can continue to make a contribution to the health care premiums of members of Congress and their aides, according to several Hill sources.

A White House official confirmed the deal and said the proposed regulations will be issued next week.

Just Wednesday, POLITICO reported that President Barack Obama told Democratic senators that he was personally involved in finding a solution.

The problem was rooted in the original text of the Affordable Care Act. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) inserted a provision which said members of Congress and their aides must be covered by plans “created” by the law or “offered through an exchange.” Until now, OPM had not said if the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program could contribute premium payments toward plans on the exchange. If payments stopped, lawmakers and aides would have faced thousands of dollars in additional premium payments each year. Under the old system, the government contributed nearly 75 percent of premium payments.

Obama’s involvement in solving this impasse was unusual, to say the least. But it came after serious griping from both sides of the aisle about the potential of a “brain drain.” The fear, as told by sources in both parties, was that aides would head for more lucrative jobs, spooked by the potential for spiking health premiums.

There was a certain sense of urgency, too, since enrollment in the exchanges was set to begin Oct. 1. There were discussions of a legislative fix — attaching language to a must-pass bill to fix the problem. But that would’ve been too difficult in today’s paralyzed Washington.

White House officials acknowledged that a fix was needed. But they knew that once they dealt with it through a regulation, some Republicans would use it against them – even though most of their party was privately obsessing over it.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), in a statement Thursday night, touted the law’s benefits and Democrats’ efforts to educate consumers.

“Members of Congress and their staffs must enroll in health marketplaces as the Affordable Care Act requires,” she wrote. “As we continue our work to ensure the smooth implementation of this law and look forward to the start of enrollment on October 1st, we will continue our efforts this August to educate consumers on the law’s provisions and tout the critical benefits already in place for millions of Americans.”

Anger was already evident as well. Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) tweeted a link to POLITICO’s story Thursday night, with the comment: “Outrageous exemption for Congress.”

Carrie Budoff Brown contributed to this report.

Bryan Preston