Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee Chairman David Vitter (R-La.) today released the results of an investigation into how Congress avoided Obamacare by putting 15,000 lawmakers and staffers into a healthcare exchange for businesses with 50 or fewer employees.
“Facing the prospect of falling victim to the consequences of its own bad law, Congress and the Obama administration negotiated behind closed doors and devised a loophole that shielded them from the consequences of the law,” states the report. “The scheme employed to provide the Washington Obamacare Exemption involved a fraudulent misrepresentation in which the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate were defined as small employers to enable their members and some staff to receive generous taxpayer-funded contributions, not otherwise available under the new law.”
It charged that “the Washington Obamacare Exemption represents the immense abuse of power by unelected bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. at the clandestine direction of elected officials and the Obama administration.”
Prior to Obamacare’s passage, members of Congress and staff received coverage through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program. Obamacare said that would be scrapped and congressional employees would go into the exchange by Jan. 1, 2014.
Near the deadline, the Office of Personnel Management unveiled a special-agency rule “despite the disappointment, disbelief, and indignation that many Americans shared when they learned that Congress was exempting itself from Obamacare.”
“The OPM rule allowed Congress to recover its generous government/employer contribution at the original pre-Obamacare amount… OPM’s rule allowed each member office to decide which employees are ‘official,’ and therefore, must enroll on the SHOP Exchange, and which are ‘unofficial’ and could remain on FEHBP.”
The report highlights “identical false misrepresentations on the House and Senate applications submitted in November 2013” to qualify for the exchange intended for 50 or fewer employees and “show a carefully coordinated scheme that likely originated from the same source who either personally completed them or gave instructions to others on how to complete them.”
Vitter began to dig into what happened when he assumed control of Small Business committee this year, but said he’s gotten the runaround on document requests.
“Through poorly-written legislation, a free pass from the Obama administration, and a deliberate mislabeling of Congress as a ‘small business,’ United States lawmakers have created a healthcare system that favors a few at the cost of many,” the report states, adding that they’re still trying to ascertain which members of Congress and White House officials met behind closed-doors to come up with the Obamacare exemption.
His office also wants to know if any congressional leaders put pressure on committee members to shoot down Vitter’s request to issue a subpoena for unredacted applications. That was denied on a 5-14 vote back in April.
“The Washington Obamacare Exemption represents a level of arrogance from Congress and DC’s elite that fundamentally undermines our nation’s government of the people, by the people, and for the people,” Vitter said today.
A Senate aide said Vitter will be reintroducing an updated version of his legislation to block Congress from receiving an Obamacare exemption. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) is then expected to copy that language and introduce it as an amendment to the highway bill.