Congress rarely comes together across party lines these days, but bipartisan consensus has emerged over the unsuitability of Obamacare’s insurance exchanges. Politico reports that Congressional leaders in both parties are engaged in high-level, confidential talks about exempting lawmakers and Capitol Hill aides from the insurance exchanges they are mandated to join under Obamacare. The talks are said to involve Harry Reid, John Boehner, other top lawmakers, and the Obama administration.
Politico points out the obvious when it notes the political risks associated with exempting congressional lawmakers and thousands of staffers from a core component of Obamacare. The fact that Congress is contemplating such a hypocritical move demonstrates the undesirability of that which it has imposed on America.
The stated rationale for such an exemption makes this even clearer. According to Politico:
The problem stems from whether members and aides set to enter the exchanges would have their health insurance premiums subsidized by their employer — in this case, the federal government. If not, aides and lawmakers in both parties fear that staffers — especially low-paid junior aides — could be hit with thousands of dollars in new health care costs, prompting them to seek jobs elsewhere. Older, more senior staffers could also retire or jump to the private sector rather than face a big financial penalty.
Oh, and “lawmakers — especially those with long careers in public service and smaller bank accounts — are also concerned about the hit to their own wallets.” It’s too bad this concern didn’t extend to ordinary Americans.
John Boehner has a ready-made rationale for considering a congressional exemption. His spokesman says:
The speaker’s objective is to spare the entire country from the ravages of the president’s health care law. He is approached daily by American citizens, including members of Congress and staff, who want to be freed from its mandates. If the speaker has the opportunity to save anyone from Obamacare, he will.
Congressional Democrats lack even this fig leaf.
Will Congress, at the end of the day, have the audacity to exempt itself from Obamacare? I don’t know. But if Congress doesn’t, it won’t be because of the Obamacare exchanges have merit, but rather because even congressional hypocricy has limits.
UPDATE: Harry Reid is now saying that that the problem he and others spent months in secret negotiations trying to fix doesn’t actually exist, and that no exemption will be required. The story is a long and tangled one. As Seth Mandel says, the lesson of it is that Congress — like so many other employers — has no clear idea what Obamacare means for its employees or how to comply with it.