A Republican Senator is hell bent on pursuing legal action against the president that would chip away at Obamacare while making health care less affordable for his own staff members and others on Capitol Hill.
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) filed an appeal on Monday to his lawsuit challenging a ruling issued by the Office of Personnel Management that allows congressional staff members to get their health care subsidized under the law’s health exchanges.
Under the Affordable Care Act, many on Capitol Hill and in the executive branch were required to trade in their government health insurance policies and purchase replacement policies in the new Obamacare insurance exchanges. The OPM ruling allowed them to get federal subsidies to act as employer contributions—just as their previous government policies did. Johnson’s lawsuit would overturn that ruling, forcing members and their employees to pay the full cost of premiums out of their own pockets.
Without the subsidies, these workers would receive a pay cut of as much as $5,000 for singles and $12,000 for families.
Johnson argues that the administration issued the ruling unfairly and bypassed Congress. He argues that lawmakers and their staff members shouldn’t receive taxpayer-subsidized health care and should be “in the same boat as their constituents” when it comes to Obamacare. About 87 percent of people who enrolled in the exchanges are receiving subsidies.
A federal judge had previously thrown out Johnson’s lawsuit, but last weekend in a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel op-ed, Johnson wrote that he feels “compelled to exhaust every legal recourse” to challenge the ruling.
This isn’t the first time lawmakers have tried to get rid of the subsidies for their staffers. Last fall, House Republicans floated a plan aimed at crippling Obamacare by scrapping subsidies for themselves and their workers.
That plan was quickly killed after receiving harsh backlash from other members and staffers who argued that cutting these subsidies would disproportionally affect lower level staffers—some of whom make as little as $25,000 and wouldn’t likely be able to afford a pay cut.
Johnson’s suit is just one of a handful of legal challenges filed against the president for his use of executive action that they view as overreach.
“The president has made more than 20 unilateral changes to Obamacare to fix his unworkable law,” Johnson said in the op-ed. He added that OPM’s rule “is not the most egregious example of this administration's lawlessness, but it is one in which the president's unilateral actions were specifically directed at members of Congress…. After all, it affected my health insurance, required me to take action to designate my staff and provided special treatment that drove a wedge between me and my constituents,” Johnson wrote.
Similar to Johnson’s suit, other legal challenges have also targeted Obamacare’s subsidies, which could be a huge disaster for the entire law.
The largest threat to Obamacare right now comes from a challenge brought by a conservative group called the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), which was struck down last week in the Fourth Circuit. The group has since asked the Supreme Court to take on the case that challenges whether subsidies should be available to people who purchased health policies on the federal exchange, since the law’s language only acknowledges the state exchanges.
Three other federal courts have heard similar cases, one in DC’s Circuit Court—Halbig V. Burwell, which ruled against the administration. The other two rulings have not been issued. However, legal experts fully expect the issue to go to the Supreme Court where much of Obamacare’s fate would be decided.
Top Reads from The Fiscal Times: