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No Senator Johnson, There's No Such Thing as an ACA Congressional Exemption

REUTERS/Gary Cameron- Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) addresses the Faith & Freedom Coalition Road to Majority Conference Kickoff Luncheon in Washington June 13, 2013.

Today, Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson (R) announced a lawsuit seeking remove the employer health insurance contribution for Members of Congress and their staff. This move would overturn a rule issued by the Office of Personnel Management that allows that allows the continuation of the existing contribution.

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed this weekend, Senator Johnson continued to promote a talking point that Congress had an exemption from the Affordable Care Act. I have written previously on the FixGov blog about this topic and the reality of the situation: the “Congressional exemption” is a myth.

Below are a few points summing up the facts about Congress and the Affordable Care Act:

  • Congress is the only large employer in the US forced to purchase insurance from the ACA marketplace
  • Congress is not exempted from ACA; in fact, it is specifically included into the program
  • Under pre-ACA provisions, Members of Congress and staff—like most employees of large organizations—received an employee contribution for their health insurance
  • Despite ACA specifically outlining the need to push Congressional staff onto the insurance marketplace, the bill was silent about the existing employer contribution
  • The removal of the employer contribution will disproportionately cost lower-paid, junior Congressional staffers when compared to senior staffers or Members themselves

In the end, simplistic Washington talking points—from Sen. Johnson, Sen. Vitter and others—limit the public understanding of a complex policy area. The judicial action from Sen. Johnson and related legislative efforts from Sen. Vitter may result in two fairly dramatic challenges for Congressional staff. Junior staffers become the target in a political game. Senior staffers may consider seeking other opportunities—a brain drain a gridlocked Congress can hardly afford—as they see a real cuts in benefits, compared to other employment.

Click through to read, “Congress, the Affordable Care Act, and the Myth of the ‘Exemption’”

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