GOP senator: O-Care exemptions show ‘stunning disregard' for law

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) said Monday that the Office of Personnel Management’s (OPM) rule allowing congressional staffers to receive employer-subsidized healthcare was a “stunning disregard for the law.”

“Congress was clear: The misnamed Affordable Care Act required Congress and its staff to get its health coverage through the exchanges and to do it without a tax-preferred employer subsidy, like anyone else who will lose employer-sponsored coverage,” Johnson said. “The administration’s rule violates this law. It is unfair to the American people and it is an offense against the rule of law.”

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Johnson has filed a lawsuit over what he calls “special ObamaCare treatment” for Congress, staffers and the administration. On Monday, he filed his response to OPM’s motion to dismiss the case.

“Today, more than ever, we have seen an alarming intrusion of the federal government into our lives,” Johnson wrote. “Far too often the president has been able to govern by presidential decree, and there has been very little that members of Congress could do about it.”

OPM ruled that congressional staffers required to go onto the healthcare exchange under the law would still be allowed to receive an employer subsidy to purchase coverage. But Johnson said this ruling ignores language in the law that says those receiving employer subsidizes cannot sign up for the coverage through the ObamaCare exchange. 

“The Office of Personnel Management’s rule restoring tax preferred congressional health care subsidies that the Affordable Care Act eliminated reflects a stunning disregard for the law,” Johnson wrote. “The United States Constitution provides for a government of laws, not men. Far from being above the law, the president is required to obey and enforce it.”

Republicans added an amendment to the Affordable Care Act — also known as ObamaCare — that required congressional staffers to participate in the exchange to prove that if it was good enough for the public it was good enough for those advocating passage of the law. But most major employers also provide healthcare that is subsidized in order to recruit highly skilled workers.

Democrats argued that the OPM rule was needed because low-paid congressional staffers would be forced to use a large percentage of their salary to buy healthcare through the exchange and in the private sector their healthcare would be subsidized by an employer.