Johnson files suit over Obamacare exemption

Jan. 6, 2014 at 4:36 PM
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WASHINGTON, Jan. 6 (UPI) -- A Wisconsin Republican is suing the federal government for underwriting a portion of the cost for health plans for congressmen and their staffs.

Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., said Monday his lawsuit is seeking to overturn a rule by the Office of Personnel Management that stated members of Congress and their staffs could have up to 75 percent of the cost of health plans purchased on the health insurance exchanges central to President Barack Obama's healthcare law paid for by taxpayers.

During a Washington news conference Monday, Johnson, a Tea Party-backed lawmaker, called the rule "special treatment" -- and said he's filed a lawsuit with former solicitor general Paul Clement as a legal adviser seeking to overturn it.

"[It's] a basic issue of fairness," Johnson said. "The political class here in Washington should be fully subject to all of the rules, all of the laws that Congress imposes on the rest of America."

Johnson lashed out at Democrats who he said lied to the American people, saying they were "eager" to reap the benefits of Obamacare, but changed their tune once they realized how much it would cost their employees to buy the insurance.

"Democrat supporters of this law basically made a covenant with the American people," Johnson said. "They wanted to show the American people they were eager, more than willing, to benefit from the healthcare law ... that is, until they really started thinking about what the true effects would be."

The healthcare law eliminated the free health insurance for lawmakers and transferred them onto the exchanges but made no provisions for an employer contribution -- in this case from the federal government. That left the Office of Personnel Management to rule the federal government could contribute to the cost of the plans as long as they are purchased on the District of Columbia exchange, not a lawmaker's home state.

Many private employers make similar contributions to the cost of employee health insurance similar to the one the Office of Personnel Management authorized.

The healthcare law takes into account an individual's income and offers a tax credit, essentially a government coupon, to buy health insurance for those who don't have access through their jobs or other means. In the case of congressional staff members, the government kicks in as much as 75 percent of the cost after tax credits are factored in.

Other federal employees not working on Capitol Hill currently receive the same benefit.

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