On one hand, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) signing up for an Obamacare health insurance policy is fantastic news. As we discussed yesterday, Cruz had a number of options at his disposal after losing his health insurance coverage due to his wife taking a leave of absence from Goldman Sachs. And no, he isn't required to buy an Obamacare policy, so he absolutely had options.
But before we recap his options, it's important to underscore that contrary to what many observers were suggesting throughout the day Tuesday, no -- the law does not mandate that all members of Congress and their staffers enroll in an Obamacare exchange plan. Or else. The law merely states that exchange plans are the only plans offered to congressional employees, including members of Congress. Here's the text from the ACA (emphasis mine):
SEC. 1312. CONSUMER CHOICE. (d)(3)(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).
In other words, members of Congress can do whatever they want, but the government is no longer offering the old Federal Employees Health Benefit Program (FEHBP) to members and their staff -- only the exchange plans under Obamacare. And since the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is continuing to pay 72 percent of the premiums (the truth behind the so-called "Obamacare exemption for Congress"), the best value for members and especially staffers is to sign up for an Obamacare plan.
If Cruz doesn't have to sign up for an Obamacare plan, what were Cruz's other non-Obamacare options?
He could've immediately enrolled in COBRA, which would've allowed Cruz and his wife to keep their existing policy. He could've signed up for an Obamacare policy as an individual, like some members of Congress are doing to sidestep the so-called "illegal" premium sharing plan implemented by the OPM (continuing the policy of premium sharing from Congress' previous health insurance program). Or he could've simply enrolled directly with an insurance provider in his state.
And what did Cruz choose instead of all of these alternatives? He chose his arch-nemesis: Obamacare. Why? Because none of the above options would've included the 72 percent premium sharing from the government. And the plans offers, probably one of the Gold-level plans is likely comparable to his wife's Goldman Sachs plan. So, not only did Cruz basically endorse the Obamacare option, but he did so in part because of Obama's allegedly impeachment-worthy decision to continue the premium sharing plan for Congress.
All told, this was almost a de facto endorsement of Obamacare. Ted Cruz, of all people, thinks Obamacare is the best deal for his family. The hypocrisy angle is almost a sideshow compared with this. Cruz filibustered Obamacare. He helped force a government shutdown over Obamacare. He's lied dozens of times about Obamacare. And now he's basically saying, "Hey, this Obamacare thing and the employer premium thing that I'm opposed to -- really great deal!" So, again, for a rabid Obamacare enemy to pull off an inadvertent Nixon-to-China moment is a huge endorsement of the law.
On the other hand, it should also infuriate anyone who has an insurance policy due to or via Obamacare.
I'm personally just now reaching the contemptuous anger stage in my coverage of Ted Cruz this week, precisely because of this story. If Cruz makes it all the way to the White House (he won't, but let's -- cough -- imagine) one of the first things he'll do is to repeal Obamacare, thus stripping me and 16+ million other Americans of our insurance policies. Repealing "every word" of the law also means repealing the part about pre-existing conditions, which would subsequently allow my insurance company to either dump me or to jack up my premiums beyond affordability.
Meanwhile, Cruz won't have to worry about his current Obamacare plan once he's president. Why? Because he'll be covered by the other government-run health insurance program, FEHBP -- the aforementioned Federal Employees Health Benefit Program. There's something wickedly unfair about this scenario, not that it'll ever happen but that he'd jump at the chance if he got it. It's like blowing up a bridge just after he's managed to make it across. Screw everyone still on the bridge.
You know what this is like? President Glenn Greenwald ordering a series of drone strikes. It's like Ayn Rand receiving Social Security and -- wait, never mind. She did. Someone said to me yesterday that I probably didn't return any of the money I saved from the Bush tax cuts. Well, no, I didn't. I also didn't oppose the tax cuts for middle class earners (my income level at the time), going so far as to filibuster those cuts on the Senate floor and voting dozens of times to repeal them. It's more than hypocrisy. It's about the decision to sign up for something he's all along claimed to hate, but now thinks is a pretty good deal -- only after misleading millions of Americans into hating the bill and therefore electing more lawmakers who want to kill it.
Ultimately, though, I'm filing this particular chapter in the Ted Cruz saga into the same folder with stories about radically anti-gay Christian evangelists getting caught having same-sex affairs. Hypocrites, yes. But also iron-fisted persuaders who influenced and indoctrinated millions before committing their hypocritical deeds. The hate lives on.