Ron Johnson subpoenas records on Obamacare ‘exemption’ for Congress
Sen. Ron Johnson gave the federal personnel office an early Christmas gift Friday a subpoena demanding to know why it “exempted” members of Congress from Obamacare by letting them retain employer subsidies for coverage.
The 2010 health law required federal lawmakers and their staff members to use its internet-based exchanges if they want to get covered through their jobs.
Yet Mr. Johnson, Wisconsin Republican, says the Office of Personnel Management must explain how it decided to let denizens of Capitol Hill hold onto federal-employer assistance, so long as they used the District of Columbia’s small-business exchange.
Other Americans on the exchanges must hope that Obamacare’s income-based subsidies are sufficient.
Mr. Johnson, who first threatened to subpoena the records in October, said OPM has until Jan. 5 to provide the requested documents.
“OPM’s refusal to produce these documents, after months of delay, has frustrated the Committee’s oversight efforts,” Mr. Johnson wrote to OPM’s acting director, Kathleen McGettigan, in the subpoena’s cover letter. “The American people have a right to know how and why OPM drafted a final regulation that allows members of Congress and staff to continue to receive an employer contribution, paid by the taxpayer, without authorization in law.”
Congress’ so-called exemption from Obamacare is the result of a provision forged by Sen. Chuck Grassley, Iowa Republican, when Congress drafted the health care law.
The Grassley Amendment dared congressional lawmakers to enroll themselves and their staffs into the state-based health exchanges set up by the law.
Democrats accepted the challenge, even though lawmakers and staff received employer-sponsored health coverage hardly the overhaul’s target audience.
Implementing the measure proved messy. Members feared staff would leave if their health costs rose under the provision, yet carving out Capitol Hill from a law would not sit well with constituents who, until President Trump signed the tax reform bill Friday, were mandated to acquire health insurance or pay fines.
The Obama administration issued regulations in 2013 that let lawmakers and staff use the D.C. portal to keep the federal subsidy, which pays up to 75 percent of their health premiums.