Republican files subpoena over ObamaCare exemption for lawmakers, staff

Republican files subpoena over ObamaCare exemption for lawmakers, staff
© Greg Nash

Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonGOP senator seeking information on FBI dealings with Bruce Ohr, former DOJ lawyer Election Countdown: O'Rourke brings in massive M haul | Deal on judges lets senators return to the trail | Hurricane puts Florida candidates in the spotlight | Adelson spending big to save GOP in midterms Senate Homeland chair vents Mueller probe is preventing panel from receiving oversight answers MORE (R-Wis.) is subpoenaing documents from the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) over what he refers to as the ObamaCare “congressional exemption.”

This refers to a rule that lets congressional members and their staff receive contributions from their employer to help pay for their ObamaCare health plans.

Johnson is following through on a threat he made in October in a letter the Kathleen McGettigan, OPM’s acting director. The senator had requested information and documents related to the rule in August.


“To date, OPM’s compliance with the Committee’s inquiry has been deficient,” Johnson, who chairs the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, wrote in the subpoena’s cover letter.

“In the four months since my initial request, OPM has produced a limited number of responsive documents, made available for in camera review only a small subset of responsive material, and refused to produce some documents specifically identified by the Committee during the in camera review process,” he wrote.

By Jan. 5, Johnson is compelling OPM to produce documents, such as draft regulations, internal deliberations, draft policy proposals, interagency communications and more.

At issue is a provision in the Affordable Care Act requiring members and designated staff to buy their health insurance on the federal and state exchanges the law created. In a rule, OPM determined this specifically meant buying coverage in Washington’s small business exchange.

A small business exchange lets employers contribute to their employees health coverage — which created the controversy Johnson and other senators have decried as the “ObamaCare congressional exemption.” If lawmakers and staff purchase plans in the individual exchange, they wouldn’t get any financial help from their employer.

Opponents of the rule argue that Congress isn’t a small business, so members and staff shouldn’t be getting contributions to help pay for their health coverage.

On the other hand, others argue that Congress is a large employer, and thus, should provide its employees with health coverage. The health law’s employer mandates requires employers with 50 or more staff members to provide health insurance or pay a penalty.