In the run-up to this year’s midterm congressional elections, the Republicanplan is to focus on Obamacare whenever possible, and two Republican lawmakers have kicked off the new year by highlighting their personal struggles or frustrations with the law.
For Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., that means filing a lawsuit that he says would force Congress to get their insurance from the federal exchanges as the law directs, not with certain tweaks carved out by the administration.
The basis for his suit: a ruling from the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) that said congressional offices would determine which staffers had to buy insurance through the federal exchanges, and that permits employees of Congress to continue receiving employer contributions like other workers on employer-based plans.
Johnson argues that this is special treatment for congressional staff that was deliberately excluded when the law was written, and that OPM exceeded its authority when they issued the ruling.
“The OPM ruling forces me, as a member of Congress, to engage in activity that I believe violates the law. It also potentially alienates members of Congress from their constituents, since those constituents are witnessing members of Congress blatantly giving themselves and their staff special treatment,” Johnson said in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal where he announces he is filing the suit with staffer Brooke Ericson.
“If the president wants to change the law, he needs to come to Congress to have them change it with legislation, not by presidential fiat or decree,” Johnson says, noting that Republicans have tried to address the issue through amendments to bills that have not gotten a vote from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.
Johnson’s colleague, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., also voiced frustrations with his own attempts to sign up for coverage. He says he’s unsure whether he actually has insurance, and that things were particularly problematic when he tried to get his son signed up and received a Medicaid card.
“We didn't try to get him Medicaid, I'm trying to pay for his insurance. But they automatically enrolled him in Medicaid. For a month, they wouldn't talk to us because they said they weren't sure he existed. He had to go down to the welfare office, prove his existence. Then the next thing we know, we get a Medicaid card,” Paul said on ABC’s “This Week” Sunday.
“Most of the people in Kentucky are automatically being enrolled in Medicaid. I'm trying to pay for insurance and can't pay for it. And I'm uncertain now whether I'm enrolled D.C. and/or Kentucky. And it's a mess,” he said. “I think it's really an unfolding disaster that I don't think gets better any time soon.”