Johnson wants details on congressional ObamaCare 'exemption'

Johnson wants details on congressional ObamaCare 'exemption'

Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonDemocratic Homeland Security members request additional DHS nominee testimony Key differences between the Senate and House tax plans Senate panel delays vote on Trump’s Homeland Security pick MORE (R-Wis.) wants information about why members of Congress and their staff receive an employer contribution toward their health coverage, which critics have dubbed an ObamaCare "congressional exemption."

Johnson's request asks the Office of Personnel Management to preserve records related to the "exemption."

Johnson, who chairs the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, detailed his request in a letter sent Wednesday to Kathleen McGettigan, OPM's acting director.

ADVERTISEMENT
The Affordable Care Act required members and designated staff to purchase healthcare coverage on the federal and state exchanges the law set up.

In a rule, OPM said that meant they could buy health coverage through the Washington, D.C., small business exchange.

This designation led to the controversy known as the “congressional exemption” — employers are allowed to contribute to their employees’ health insurance in the small business exchanges. In the individual exchange, employers can’t contribute.

Opponents of this, such as Johnson, argue that Congress has thousands of employees, and so they shouldn’t be getting coverage on the small business exchange. Rather, without this rule, they would be buying health insurance on the individual exchange, which doesn’t allow for an employer contribution, according to Johnson.

“The SHOP exchange is intended for employers with less than 50 employees, yet Congress employs more than 16,000 people,” Johnson wrote in the letter.

Others argue Congress is a large employer, and thus should provide its employees with healthcare, rather than having them buy coverage on the exchanges. ObamaCare’s employer mandate requires employers with 50 or more staff members to provide health insurance or pay a fee.

After a hearing in 2016 with a former OPM head, Johnson asked for additional information on the development of this rule, but wrote he is “yet to receive satisfactory responses from OPM.”

Johnson is asking for all documents and communications between Jan. 1, 2010, and Oct. 2, 2013, relating to the crafting of this regulation by Aug. 31. He would also like details on how OPM has secured all documents on this topic.