(Gohmert photo meme via Little Green Footballs)
Let's be perfectly clear about this from the beginning. Congress is not "exempt" from Obamacare. The idea that members of Congress are somehow exempt from the law is possibly one of the grossest lies foisted upon the American public in the last several years. Indeed, members of Congress have no choice but to sign up for a health insurance policy through the Affordable Care Act. That's the opposite of exempt.
And the reason why members of Congress and their staffers have to leave the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) and sign up for health insurance through the ACA is because Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) introduced an amendment to the Senate healthcare bill in the Finance Committee and the committee unanimously adopted it with the help of senators John Ensign (R-NV), Jon Kyl (R-AZ) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT). The amendment reads as follows:
H.R. 3590: D) MEMBERS OF CONGRESS IN THE EXCHANGE.— (i) REQUIREMENT.—Notwithstanding any other provision of law, after the effective date of this subtitle, the only health plans that the Federal Government may make available to Members of Congress and congressional staff with respect to their service as a Member of Congress or congressional staff shall be health plans that are— (I) created under this Act (or an amendment made by this Act); or (II) offered through an Exchange established under this Act (or an amendment made by this Act).
So when Republican members of Congress complain about being forced to sign up for Obamacare, they only have their own caucus to blame for forcing them off a perfectly good government-run health insurance program, the FEHBP, and onto, frankly, a much-less-government-run health insurance program via the exchanges. Specifically, I'm talking about Republican members of Congress like Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) whose stupidity about the law is without limits.
Gohmert is so flaming angry about being forced to sign up for a policy through the exchanges that he's decided to go uninsured and pay the individual mandate tax penalty for violating the law.
Back in September he announced that he's refusing to buy a new insurance plan via the ACA exchanges.
"On January 1st, when millions of Americans will likely lose their employers' contribution to their health insurance, I will refuse to receive that same subsidy. It also means I will have to pay a substantial penalty or 'tax,' but I cannot in good conscience accept the subsidy when so many Americans have lost their insurance altogether because of ObamaCare."
And yesterday, he elaborated:
"Other people are going to see what I did when I looked into health insurance for my wife and me: that the deductible rate, it doubled, about $3,000 to $6,000, and our policy was going to go from about $300 to about $1,500 a month," he said in a recent radio interview, according to the Dallas Morning News. "I actually don't have insurance right now, so thank you very much, Obamacare."
Okay, a bunch of things on this.
1) "Thanks, Obamacare" is still a meme, evidently.
2) His insurance premium wouldn't have gone up because the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) created a rule by which the government would continue to subsidize congressional insurance premiums, covering 75 percent of the cost (Thanks, Obama!). That's the subsidy he's talking about. But before Gohmert became uninsured he was covered by the FEHBP and the government was already paying 75 percent of his premium! The government. Your tax dollars. And now, suddenly, the exact same government subsidy covering 75 percent of his premium is an unsavory proposition for Gohmert, even though he used to be fine with it and even praised how affordable his plan used to be.
3) Gohmert makes a (taxpayer funded) $174,000 salary. He shouldn't be strapped for cash to pay for insurance.
4) He's so dumb! No, he doesn't have to choose between a plan from the ACA exchanges, which are really menus of corporate insurance companies competing for our business (capitalism!), or no insurance at all. He can, in fact, shop around on his own and buy a plan directly through an insurance company. And those policies will have all of the new consumer protections from the law built into them. If Gohmert is against consumer protections, such as an end to lifetime limits and so forth, he should say so. Republicans happen to be support the ACA's consumer protections by supermajority margins.
5) So now Gohmert will ostensibly go without insurance, making himself part of the problem; driving up healthcare costs and refusing to participate in the system. Of course, at 60 years old, Gohmert will qualify for that other government-run insurance program called "Medicare" in five years.
You just can't make this stuff up. He's opting to risk bankruptcy or worse just to make a ridiculous political point -- still pitching a tantrum about evil, evil Obamacare -- when he can simply go on demagoguing about the law while fully covered by a privately offered insurance plan that he can easily afford given his salary.
Yep. That's Louie Gohmert all right. The dumbest man in Congress.