Both Congress and IRS Union Squirm to Get Out of ObamaCare; Networks Punt
Thursday evening, Politico reported that the Office of Personnel Management — after the unusual personal involvement of President Obama himself — had decided to issue new regulations this week to protect members of Congress and their staffs from seeing their health care premiums skyrocket once ObamaCare takes effect.
The new rules will protect a relatively small number of politically well-connected individuals, in spite of language in the 2010 health care law that specifically required that Congressmen, Senators and their aides “must be covered by plans ‘created’ by the law or ‘offered through an exchange,’ as Politico detailed.
In spite of the obvious double-standard just months before the law is poised to affect tens of millions of Americans, ABC and NBC have (so far) completely skipped this news, while CBS gave it a grand total of 18 seconds on Friday morning.
In a quick headline segment on her August 2 show, CBS This Morning co-anchor Norah O’Donnell summarized the Politico piece:
Politico says health insurance cost won’t spike for members of Congress and their staffs. The government will continue to pay seventy-five percent of their premiums. The payments were threatened by language in President Obama’s health care law. The President got personally involved in an unusual way to help find a fix.
Also on Thursday, acting IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel was asked at a congressional hearing about how the Internal Revenue Service employees’ union is organizing to block a proposal from the Republican chairman of the House Ways and Means committee, Dave Camp, to require those workers — who will have to help implement the health care law — to be covered through ObamaCare’s health insurance exchanges.
Werfel made it clear that he, for one, would not welcome being put into the ObamaCare system: “For a federal employee, I think more likely, and I would — can speak for myself, I would prefer to stay with the current policy that I’m pleased, with rather than go through a change if I don’t need to go through that change.”
A spokeswoman for Camp’s office had earlier responded to the IRS employees’ union: “If the Obamacare exchanges are good enough for the hardworking Americans and small businesses the law claims to help, then they should be good enough for the president, vice president, Congress and federal employees.”
None of the three broadcast networks have noted how IRS workers are opposed to being included in the ObamaCare exchanges.
As for Congress trying to get out from under the terms of the law, Politico — which seemed to accept the premise that lawmakers being covered under ObamaCare was a “problem” in need of a “solution” — explained:
Just Wednesday, Politico reported that President Barack Obama told Democratic senators that he was personally involved in finding a solution.
The problem was rooted in the original text of the Affordable Care Act. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) inserted a provision which said members of Congress and their aides must be covered by plans “created” by the law or “offered through an exchange.” Until now, OPM had not said if the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program could contribute premium payments toward plans on the exchange. If payments stopped, lawmakers and aides would have faced thousands of dollars in additional premium payments each year. Under the old system, the government contributed nearly 75 percent of premium payments.
Obama’s involvement in solving this impasse was unusual, to say the least. But it came after serious griping from both sides of the aisle about the potential of a “brain drain.” The fear, as told by sources in both parties, was that aides would head for more lucrative jobs, spooked by the potential for spiking health premiums.
But, according to an editorial in Monday's Wall Street Journal, the regulatory “fix” provided by President Obama is not just hypocritical, but also illegal:
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.
But the White House rejected a legislative fix because Republicans might insist on other changes, and Mr. Obama feared that Democrats would go along because they’re looking out for number one. So the White House is once again rewriting the law unilaterally, much as it did by suspending ObamaCare’s employer mandate for a year. For this White House, the law it wrote is a mere suggestion.
The lesson for Americans is that Democrats who passed ObamaCare didn’t even understand what they were doing to themselves, much less to everyone else. But you can bet Democrats will never extend to ordinary Americans the same fixes that they are now claiming for themselves. The real class divide in President Obama’s America is between the political class and everyone else.
When the U.S. was ramping up its involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, liberals argued that we needed a military draft to make sure that the sons and daughters of America’s political elite were not insulated from the human costs of those wars.
But when it comes to ObamaCare, liberal elites are more than happy to see themselves and their allies protected from the consequences of that grand social experiment.
— Rich Noyes is Research Director at the Media Research Center. Click here to follow him on Twitter.