As Erika wrote last Friday, the White House has decided to rescue Congress from ObamaCare, but the new plan will cost taxpayers plenty — and ignore the statutes of the bill Barack Obama himself demanded. New details in the Wall Street Journal of the plan to exempt Congress and its staffers from the consequences of its own law show that the rescue will come in the form of substantial subsidies to cover the skyrocketing cost of lower coverage thanks to the ACA. And, like the waiver for the employer mandate, it also comes at the expense of statutory law:
President Obama told Democrats in a closed-door meeting last week that he would personally moonlight as HR manager and resolve the issue.
And now the White House is suspending the law to create a double standard. The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) that runs federal benefits will release regulatory details this week, but leaks to the press suggest that Congress will receive extra payments based on the FEHBP defined-contribution formula, which covers about 75% of the cost of the average insurance plan. For 2013, that’s about $4,900 for individuals and $10,000 for families.
How OPM will pull this off is worth watching. Is OPM simply going to cut checks, akin to “cashing out” fringe benefits and increasing wages? Or will OPM cover 75% of the cost of the ObamaCare plan the worker chooses—which could well be costlier than what the feds now contribute via current FEHBP plans? In any case the carve-out for Congress creates a two-tier exchange system, one for the great unwashed and another for the politically connected.
This latest White House night at the improv is also illegal. OPM has no authority to pay for insurance plans that lack FEHBP contracts, nor does the Affordable Care Act permit either exchange contributions or a unilateral bump in congressional pay in return for less overall compensation. Those things require appropriations bills passed by Congress and signed by the President.
Obviously, this isn’t the first time that Obama has solved the Gordian knot it created on Capitol Hill by simply ignoring the law he championed. The addition of the Congressional mandate was to ensure that the two-tiered system did not get created by politicians unwilling to absorb the consequences they impose on everyone else. Like it or not, that’s how the ACA became law. This is nothing more than a political ploy to protect the governing class from the laws it creates, an unconscionable move in any case, and certainly from the administration that both pushed this unpopular law onto the American people and which promised to clean up the way Washington worked.
If Congress was so adamant about getting a waiver, why didn’t they pass the laws necessary to create it? Republicans wanted to use that as a lever for a full repeal, which means that the waiver never would have made it past the House. Democrats were too embarrassed to publicly appeal for the rescue, for obvious reasons, which is why they went to the White House rather than pass a waiver or exemption in the US Senate, which they control. Instead of changing the statutes by which the rest of us have to live, Democrats on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue have simply decided not to apply it to themselves.
That may be a lot of things, but democratic it ain’t.