Chairman Roy Temple: "If our Republican House members feel so strongly that this is some kind of special treatment, then they should voluntarily forfeit it today."
On the seventh day of a Republican government shutdown, due to the US House majority demanding a dismantling of the Affordable Care Act before they fund basic services, Missouri Democratic Party Chairman Roy Temple issued a challenge to Representatives Ann Wagner, Blaine Luetkemeyer, Vicky Hartzler, Sam Graves, Billy Long, and Jason Smith: that they voluntarily forfeit their employer contributions to their health care plans - contributions they have lately labeled "special treatment."
Under the Affordable Care Act, members of Congress and their staffs are the only people in the country required to leave their employer health care plans, and shop on the new health care exchanges set up by the law. In recent days, Republicans in the US House have justified their shutdown of the federal government by claiming that members of Congress and staff are getting "special treatment," because they will continue to receive an employer contribution when they shop on the exchanges.
Most big employers across the country, both private and public, offer a contribution to help pay for the cost of insuring their employees. And staff for the Republican Senator who authored the Affordable Care Act amendment requiring Congress to give up their employer plans have confirmed that their intent was never to eliminate the employer contribution.
Today, Temple told Republicans to "put their money where their mouths are."
"If these Republicans who have shut down essential services across Missouri really think it's so immoral for someone to take an employer contribution for their health care, then they should never have accepted it to begin with - and they should decline their employer health coverage or return the value of their employer contribution to the U.S. Treasury today. It's the height of hypocrisy to claim you've shut down the government because you want to get rid of 'special treatment,' and still accept that contribution all the same. So it's time for them to put up, or shut up."
Members of Congress can forfeit their employer contribution to their health care plans at any time.
While Republican House members have claimed repeatedly that Congress and staff are "exempt" from, or get "special treatment" under the Affordable Care Act, multiple news outlets have debunked those rumors as false:
Politifact- Sen. Ted Cruz says Obama ‘just granted all of Congress an exception’ to Obamacare: False (8/14/13)
· Cruz, reeling off signs Obamacare’s "wheels are coming off," said the president "just granted all of Congress an exception."
That sounds like lawmakers get to opt out of health care under the law. Quite the opposite — they'll use new marketplaces alongside the uninsured and small businesses, just as it required. And it's not even accurate to say they were excepted from some provision of the law: the law itself wasn't clear.
Instead, they got a clarification about the law’s effect on contributions toward their health insurance — which they will purchase on Obamacare’s marketplaces. We rate Cruz’s claim False.
Fact Check.org- No ‘Special Subsidy’ for Congress (8/30/13)
· Congress isn’t “exempt” from the law. It wasn’t exempt back in 2010, when we first debunked such a claim; nor were lawmakers exempt in May when the bogus bit surfaced again. Three months later, they’re still not exempt. In fact, as we’ve said before, lawmakers and their staffs face additional requirements that other Americans don’t. And the “special subsidy” to which Pittenger refers is simply a premium contribution that his employer, the federal government, has long made to the health insurance policies of its workers.
Politico- Despite claims, Obamacare gives Congress no special treatment (9/29/13)
· Although they will be required to enroll in health plans offered within the new health-insurance exchanges established under the law, members of Congress and their staffs will not receive extra financial help to pay for their medical care.
· There is one way in which health reform’s treatment of members of Congress and their staffs is unique — but it doesn’t involve preferential treatment. They are the only people in the country working for a large employer that is allowed to offer health plans exclusively through the exchanges. Unlike all other federal employees, they will not be able to enroll in plans offered through FEHBP.
Washington Post- Congress isn’t giving itself special treatment on Obamacare. It’s giving itself special punishment. (Ezra Klein- 4/25/13)
· But Congress didn't give itself special treatment in Obamacare. It gave itself a special punishment.
· If they go all the way in repealing the Grassley amendment, their relationship with the law will be exactly the same as anyone else who works for a large employer -- it'll be how the law is supposed to work. If they do some halfway measure where staffers have to buy insurance on the exchanges but the federal government can help them pay for it, then Obamacare will apply to them a bit more aggressively than it will apply anyone else who works for a large employer -- which was, I think, the actual intent of Sen. Chuck Grassley's amendment -- but it should basically work fine. But as it stands now, Obamacare creates problems for Congress that it doesn't create for any other large employer.
Washington Post - In 2014, Congress gets Obamacare. Here’s how they’ll pay for it. (Ezra Klein- 8/1/13)
· The Obama administration's compromise is to permit the federal government to contribute toward employee insurance on the exchanges, but to render those employees ineligible for any tax credits or subsidies.
· "Members of Congress and their staff must go into the exchange," said an administration official. "No ands, ifs, or buts. They will not be eligible in any way for subsidies or tax credits. But they don't lose their current employer contribution."
Washington Post - John Boehner’s ‘Plan C’ hurts Congress, hurts taxpayers, fixes nothing(Ezra Klein- 9/30/13)
- But Republicans began claiming that Congress had granted itself a special and illegal "exemption" under Obamacare.
“Unless we make a change, Washington insiders will get a special exemption from Obamacare when it goes into effect on October 1,” Sen. Vitter said. “If Democrats in Washington are going to force Obamacare on the rest of America, they need to live by its provisions, too."
The result of Vitter's amendment -- and of "Plan C" -- would not be that members of Congress and their staffs are treated like everyone else under Obamacare. Rather, they would be a) the only employees of a large employer whose employer is no longer allowed to offer them health coverage and b) the only employees of a large employer whose employer is not allowed to contribute to their health-care premiums.
National Review- The Obamacare Non-Exemption (9/27/13)
· Congressmen and their staff, then, are getting a questionable workaround from the law — but it’s from a provision of the law that treated them particularly badly rather than neutrally. The net result of the law and the workaround isn’t a “special handout” for congressional employees.
· But people who happen to be paid by the federal treasury don’t deserve to have the entire value of their existing coverage stripped away, as almost no Americans will experience.
New Republic- The Latest Obamacare Lie That Just Won't Die (Jonathan Cohn- 8/13/13)
· Obamacare really does treat congressional employees differently from other people. But that’s because of an amendment written by Senator Chuck Grassley, the Iowa Republican. The amendment—almost certainly a political stunt designed to embarrass the Democrats—created an ambiguity in the law that the Obama administration had to clarify.
· While smarter critics like Reason's Peter Suderman grasp the nuances, most people writing and talking about this don't seem interested in such details. Like the death panels and immigration myths, the suggestion that Obama made Congress exempt from his health care law seems impervious to reality.