Lars Larson: Why isn’t Congress covered by Obamacare


by Lars Larson

So why isn’t Congress covered by Obamacare these days? I call it an exemption, but others do not.

Getting lost in the argument about Obamacare’s computer failures and web site malfunctions is the more critical question: Why is it that our government is exempt?

The Affordable Care Act was intended to include Congress. That intention was stated very clearly in the law.

Then President Obama decided that if he made the Congress subject to it, why, they might actually vote against the darn thing.

So he ordered the Office of Personnel Management to tell the members of the Congress and their staff that they could still get their generous 72% contribution and subsidy from the federal government.

That’s YOUR tax dollars being spent to make health insurance more affordable for members of Congress and their staff.

Technically, not an exemption, but only a difference that a lawyer would truly appreciate.

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Posted by at 05:00 | Posted in Congress, Federal Government, Obamacare | 65 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post
  • JackLordGod

    Congressional and White House staff did originally raise a valid point here.

    They had been getting their health insurance paid for as part of their compensation, just as plenty of other people are covered by their employer.

    When BOcare was passed, Chuck Grassley put in an amendment that said staff had to buy their insurance on the BOcare exchange.

    The key here is the Grassley amendment did not mention who would pay for it. Theoretically one could read the amendment to say staff had just suddenly lost all the insurance benefits they had had for years and now were on their own to pay for their insurance.

    This is what Obama stepped in to take care of.

    On the surface the Obama solution seems totally fair. Staff had insurance benefits as part of the job, now they all of a sudden lost them? Doesn’t seem right.

    However like so many things in liberalism, it looks great in theory land, not so much in real life.

    What about the hundreds of thousands out there getting cancellation notices on individual policies? They sure as hell just all of a sudden lost their insurance and now have to shop around for what is turning out to be sky high prices. I guess congress got insulated from that.

    What about rising prices? Well, if you are getting a percentage subsidy you sure are insulated from that as well.

    What really should have happened here is the Grassely amendment should have been honored.

    Congress should have gotten a set amount to pay for their insurance rather than a percentage amount. That set amount should have been a fixed dollar amount indexed for inflation. This would have had the desired effect – subjecting congress to the additional burdens they have subjected us all to, while at the same time been fair to the fact that insurance had been part of their compensation.

    That’s not what happened obviously.

    • DavidAppell

      What about rising prices?

      “Medical-Price Inflation Is at Slowest Pace in 50 Years,”
      Wall Street Journal, 9/17/13

      • JackLordGod

        Um, David, hate to tell you this but that article is from September. Obamacare kicked in Oct 1. thus it doesn’t cover the price increases we are hearing reported about, which I personally experienced on Oct 1, and which are likely to continue in the future.

        Remarkably poor try, even for you.

        Next time maybe check the date? Or even just check the article headline?

        “Data Signal Relief for Governments, Businesses as Plans Make Consumers Pick Up More of the Tab”

        • DavidAppell

          Has there been some massive jump in medical inflation since Sept? You’re presented absolutely not data suggesting it has. And data rules.

        • DavidAppell

          Where is the data about these price increases?

          • JackLordGod

            Careful David – I am setting you up here. Are you suggesting one years worth of data establishes a trend?

            Also, let us be clear, you have presented no data either, as your cite ends in September, thus preceding the event, which started in October. . This is purely a theoretical discussion either way

            So again – bearing in mind that I have warned you I am setting you up. Is it your contention that one years worth of data establishes a trend?

          • DavidAppell

            You have no data at all. That makes your conclusions useless.

          • DavidAppell

            Also, let us be clear, you have presented no data either, as your cite ends in September, thus preceding the event, which started in October
            False. Some provisions of the ACA have been in place for some time now, such as the law that up-to-26 year olds can be covered on their parent’s policies.
            So where are the dreaded price increases?

          • DavidAppell

            So again – bearing in mind that I have warned you I am setting you up.
            Either present data, or shut up. Your choice, Rupert Huse & Son.

  • Bob Clark

    I think the Oregonian did one of its so called Politifact checks on Congress being exempted from the Affordable Care Act; and in this one, the Oregonian became very literal (whereas at other times it weighs effects of a statement and other “buts”), and I think the Oregonian called allegations of Congress’ exemption from the ACA: FALSE. This is but one example of how the Oregonian’s Politifact check including a large degree of arbitrariness.

    The Oregonian explained that Congress like any other employer can elect to pay up for its employees’ Health Insurance. But where is the Oregonian’s consideration of Congress’ special status, where it also sets the law while knowing it has easy access to the people’s monies to easily offset the effects of the new law on itself and its employees.

    The Oregonian often goes Mostly False or Mostly True; but in this case, it goes for False. I’d rate the Oregonian’s fact check as containing a significant degree of subjectivity and arbitrariness. You still have to hand it to the Oregonian for the Fact Checker, as it does rile us up and puts us to the test.

  • DavidAppell

    Congress and its staff get an employer contribution to their health care, just like many (but not all) workers. So what is there to complain about?

    In fact, at 72%, Congress as a employer is paying the exact same percentage as the average employer does, according to the latest Kaiser Family Foundation Survey:

    (See Exhibit A)

    • 3H

      Good luck arguing with facts David. As I just recently learned, appearance is everything. Even when contradicted by actual facts. Same thing here. The fact that many businesses, and not just the Federal Government, contribute towards employee health insurance costs is besides the point. The appearance (even when you have to ignore inconvenient facts) is everything. Smoke and mirrors is how issues should be “discussed”.

      • DavidAppell

        You’re probably right, but I like to see their reactions when confronted with actual facts, even if they are ignored.

  • thevillageidiot

    When did the employer of congress approve insurance premiums for the congressional members? Do any of you remember ever voting to provide medical insurance to your representative? Just who do you think is the employer of elected officials? Now as each member of congress hires its staff they are the staff employer and provide pay and benefits. not much we can do about that but where do you think they get the money to fund their staff?

    So bend over and say thank you SIR may I have another!!

  • thevillageidiot

    as to the “statistics”. I really love the way % are bandied about as if you know what you are talking about. 72% of 20 k per year per staffer is not nearly as much as 72% of 15K per year per staffer. I think that all the congressional members must send their staff to the wonderful OBOMACARE website and enroll in the lowest cost plan and then get the 72% subsidy. Then 72% of 3600 per year per staffer is pretty cheap insurance and a reduction in the cost to the employer of elected officials and their staff. Everybody gets medical insurance everybody is happy an then we demand a reduction in taxes. And just who decided that an elected position is a lifetime career.
    See I can throw around statistics and numbers too.

    • DavidAppell

      See I can throw around statistics and numbers too.
      Not very well. One’s subsidy doesn’t depend on what plan they pick, but on their income. And you just snuck in the 20K per year per staffer, without supporting evidence. And the KFF average premium is $16.4K, not 15K.

  • Britt Storkson

    The conservative talk show host mantra right now regarding Obamacare is that it exists because Obama wants a socialist utopia here in U.S. and this is one way to get it. I agree that Obama may want a utopia for himself and his buddies but judging from hardship Obama’s policies have inflicted on the middle class it’s obvious he does not want a utopia for all.

    Obamacare is simply one more way politicians, as directed by their campaign contributors – in this case Doctors, Lawyers and Pharmacy – limit/control the delivery of goods and services so as to increase prices and profits for those in this industry. And part of this money is “fed back” to the politicians to keep this “gravy train” going.

    Obama is not the driving force here. His campaign contributors are.

    Obamacare is quickly becoming very unpopular but that won’t stop it. If the politicians who pushed Obamacare get tossed out of office the campaign contributors will simply “buy off” the next crop of politicians who will continue the misery.

    You don’t believe that? Then why is it that we have, to date, not one politician who will even issue a statement condemning rigged elections, secret trials and government spying on private citizens not suspected of committing crimes? Those activities are very unpopular and viewed by most Americans – both liberals and conservatives – as a unacceptable affront to our freedom and liberty. Yet they are not opposed by our political leaders.

    The reason the politicians do not reflect the will of the people is because they don’t represent the people anymore. They now represent their campaign contributors, not the voters. And that’s why we have Obamacare.

    • 3H

      I think we have Obamacare because it was the only program that was going to pass: not something sensible and sane like single payer.

      The fact that Republicans turned their back on what is essentially a Republican idea (individual mandate, no public option) simply confirmed in my mind that they, Republicans, are not serious about providing affordable health care to those that can’t afford it. They trotted out the idea to give themselves cover against the argument that they don’t care, and then ran away from it as fast as they could when their bluff was called.

      As for politicans not representing the people “anymore”, I have some sad news for you. Politicians dancing to tune play by big contributors is not new, and certainly was more egregious in the nineteenth century.

    • JacklordGOD

      I have met very few, actually no, doctors that are at all enthusiastic about this bill, and I do have some in my family. All are wild eyed liberal, none very enthusiastic about Obamacare, all thinking about closing their practice.

      I would also suggest the secret trials/spying thing is a little off as well. There was quite a hubbub about all of this when Bush was president. You had liberals all over the place on this blog yammering on about how Bush had violated the constitution, violated peoples rights. Now, nothing.

      What changed is press coverage. The left shut up about Obamas abuses because frankly they are getting embarrassing. The press shut up about them because he is their guy.

      I would put it this way – Does anyone in their right mind seriously think Hillary Clinton did not have powerful and well funded campaign contributors behind her?

      Yet she lost in the primary due in large part to her having to expend so much of her resources fighting off John Edwards. She only had to do that because the press sat on his affair story, Thus continuing his viability and Hill’s expenditures in fighting him off.

      Big moneyed interest have always been in politics and always will be. What is very different now is a press corps that carries the party line. North Korea has a more balanced press corp than the “what’s your favorite color” crowd in DC now.

      Let’s be real here, all Obama has to say about anything is “Gee, I didn’t know what was going on, first I read about it was in the papers like you, but I can promise you, no one is more upset about this than I am, we are going to find out who did this, hold them responsible”. The press will dutifully back off.

      This is a man who made up a You Tube story about an assassination, whose justice department was caught red handed selling guns to drug dealers, with hundreds dead as a result. Obama saying he would be relentless in tracking down the Benghazi perps was almost immediately compared to OJ saying he wouldn’t rest until Nicholes murderers were found. Everyone knew it was BS but the press will never question Obama BS.

      That’s not big money that gets you that. That’s a non existent press.

      Ask yourself – do you honestly think if I Republican was in the White House this spying would be tolerated on nearly the same level?

      No way – the tapping of some overseas phone calls was described as “The Bush Warrentless Wiretapping Scandal”

      Obama tapping everyone’s phone and now having all of Europe enraged at us is described as “Eric Snowden leaks”

      That aint weird mystery money from shadow government contributors. That’s a non existent press.

      • 3H

        You keep repeating that, and I’ll agree, this issue is not well covered in many of the mainstream national outlets – liberal or conservative. However, take a look at the Nation, Mother Jones, or even Salon and you’ll find plenty of liberal criticism and opposition to Obama’s war on whistle blowers, Guantanamo, etc…
        As for many liberals not being as critical of Obama as they were of Bush: welcome to politics. I wish it was different, but that also appears to be a very human failing that infects both sides. No one likes criticizing their candidate as much as they enjoy criticizing the other side’s.
        I’ve also complained as much about Obama’s actions as I have about Bush in those regards. When, of course, the issues are even broached on OC.

        • JacklordGOD

          Um – Yep – It’s pretty clear I am talking about the mainstream press here.

          I don’t think you are, but I sure hope no one would try and maintain that in terms of general mainstream news outlets, Obama has gotten away with some truly outrageous stuff.

          Your point about you complaining as much about Obamas actions as you have of Bush’s utter nonsense however and we both know it. In general you defend Obama at every opportunity and not once, to my recollection, have you ever criticized him on any point outside of poor adherence to the orthodoxy.

          • 3H

            “Your point about you complaining as much about Obamas actions as you have of Bush’s utter nonsense however and we both know it.”

            Ummm. no, we don’t both know it. You believe it because it fits your pre-conceived notions. I don’t expect to change your mind. You do not seem to be very amendable to challenging your rather rigid typologies.
            Unless, of course, someone tries to box you in and claim you are like all the other Republicans. It would be nice, sometime, if you were to be more aware of the variety of belief among Liberals. Or even that if you aren’t dogmatic in your conservative beliefs, maybe there are liberals who aren’t as well. Sadly, I’ll be very surprised if I see that realization in your thinking. (Just a hint… you’re not that unique).

            My comment was about criticism on certain aspects of Obama’s policies dealing with national security and whistle-blowers that are actually worse than Bush’s policies.
            Not the entirety of their policies however. This may come as a shock, but I’m less likely to sound critical of Obama, with whom I find more points of agreement, than I did with Bush, where I found more points of disagreement. Does this surprise you? That is something akin to being shocked to find that members of the Tea Party are less critical of Ted Cruz than they are of Obama.

            “have you ever criticized him on any point outside of poor adherence to the orthodoxy.”
            In short, I don’t criticize him when I agree with his actions, and I do criticize him when I don’t? LOL.. is that truly what you’re trying to say?

      • DavidAppell

        Why should the bill have to satisfy doctors? It has to satisfy patients….

        • JackLordGod

          Beats me – I never maintained it had to satisfy doctors.

          How did this inanity fly into your vacuous head?

          • DavidAppell

            Because, of course, you wrote, “I have met very few, actually no, doctors that are at all enthusiastic about this bill, and I do have some in my family.”
            Who cares what doctors think? If, as members of the Rupert Huse & Son family of Springfield, they are only interested in how much money they can make, then who needs them? Let’s get some real doctors in their spaces, instead of profiteers.

          • DavidAppell

            And really Rupert — you work for your father???
            You must be kidding me….

          • DavidAppell

            This is downright strange.

            On July 8, 2013, a “Rupert Huse” published a post on Oregon Catalyst:
            Oregon Country Fair condoning and romanticizing violence

            Before he was “JackLordGod” — an identifier I know from his personal emails to me, and that he uses now — he was “Rupert from Springfield” — not a common name, I’m sure you will agree.

            Searching for “Rupert Huse” and “Springfield” returns this:

            Rupert Huse & Son Inc
            90965 Marcola Road
            Springfield, OR 97478 – map
            Phone: (541) 736-5436

            and more investigation returns this site:


            Which has, on its top:

            “Rupert Huse & Son
            “This site is intended for adults. If you are not of legal age, or if you are offended by sexually explicit material you must leave.”

            Entering the site finds a great deal of very, very curious products:

            I can’t repeat them here, as they are too sexually explicit.

            Is this really who the JackLordGod commenter is here??

          • 3H

            As someone who comments anonymously, I’m uncomfortable with “outing” someones personal life on here. Even if they have, in the past, specifically identified themselves. I don’t like it when they’ve done it to you, and I don’t like this either.

            Whether or not if he works for or with his father is immaterial to me. The fact that his company sells fetish toys even more so.

            I think it’s best to focus on the issues, which is why I go after his willingness to turn debates personal so quickly. I think he should be called on his name calling and condescending attitude when he believes he knows something that we don’t. It simply sets him up for ridicule when he turns out to have his own issues with facts. I think he should be mocked (gently?) for his actions on here, but not for other aspects of his private life that have no bearing on the debates here. His constant comments about your degree, your living situation or your car (or lack of it) are truly childish and an attempt to divert the conversation from the facts and the logic of the debate.

            I can imagine the frustration that prompted you to respond in kind. God knows I’ve wanted to unload on him and respond in the condescending, pompous tone he employs with those of us who are liberal. However, I don’t think this is a good way to go about it.

          • DavidAppell

            Rupert Huse lies about me, in the worst way possible. He deserves whatever he gets.

          • DavidAppell

            3H: I’m sorry, I just don’t feel sorry for Rubert Huse at all. He has lied about me and my academic degrees. He is a bald-faced liar, who has kept it up even when told he is wrong. I don’t think he deserves anything here, let alone from me.

            I do not choose to be anonymous. I comment under my real name, because I think that matters for credibility. Mr. Huse has chose to exploit that fact and spread lies about me. He is a liar, and IMO he deserves the same venom he so willingly dishes out to others.

          • DavidAppell

            His constant comments about your degree, your living situation or your car (or lack of it) are truly childish and an attempt to divert the conversation from the facts and the logic of the debate.

            With all due respect — and I mean that, I’d like you to know — that’s easy for you to say. Rupert Huse has made this personal as a way of trying to, scurriously, win the argument, by lying about me — lying in ways intended to harm my professional reputation, which is what I rely on to make a living.

            So I’m not very willing to cut him any slack. Frankly, I’m f-ing angry. So finding out he is an utter hypocrite w.r.t. conservative values is too good for my anger to pass up. Sorry, but that’s how I feel. I hope I never encounter him in person.

          • 3H

            It is easy for me to say.. and yet it wasn’t. I have a great deal of respect for the facts and logical argument that you bring to the discussion.

          • DavidAppell

            I can see that. In a perfect world I could hold back my anger. And I have tried, I really have. But this isn’t a perfect world.

          • 3H

            LOL.. if only it was a perfect world. President Warren would be working, and passing, single payer as we speak and introducing some tough consumer protection laws with some teeth.

          • DavidAppell

            OK. But whether someone gets respect depends on whether they give respect. I never think of outing ordinary anonymous commenters, including you. But when they turn nasty and personal, and especially when they spread lies, then all bets are off.

          • DavidAppell

            Rupert Huse deserves what he gets.

          • DavidAppell

            3H: But it is disheartening to see that you seem to care more about my outing of Rupert Huse’s reality than you do about his lies about me and my credentials.

          • 3H

            I’ve taken him to task for the personal assaults against you as well. I have no respect for Rupert.. I do for you. Perhaps that’s what made my speak out as I did. I’ve come to expect so little from Rupert, that I actually anticipate and find amusing his inability to hold his rants in.

            I understand your point, I may disagree in my own way, but that’s just how I happen to look at this. And I will continue to call out Rupert on his immaturity. As you noted, I don’t have the same strong feelings because he has not attacked me in the same manner that he has attacked you. If I do have higher expectations for you, it’s because my expectations for Rupert are so minimal.

            I’m sorry I’ve given you the wrong impression, and I thought twice before hitting send. I think I should have thought a third time.

          • DavidAppell

            Just because you think you’re anonymous is no reason why others have to pretend the same.

            Rupert Huse gave up his anonymity when he posted to OC this summer.

            I don’t see what’s so scary about using real names anyway, or why people are afraid to back their opinions.

          • DavidAppell

            And, let me point out, OC hasn’t done anything to stop these lies. (Yes, I’ve kept track.)

          • DavidAppell

            “Rupert Huse and Son is a moderate fetish company in business since 1997 which builds bondage furniture as well as manufactures violet wands.”

          • DavidAppell

            Rupert: do you really work for daddy in a fetish business??

      • DavidAppell

        The left shut up about Obamas abuses because frankly they are getting embarrassing.

        Rupert Huse: This is either ignorant or dishonest. As 3H writes, there has been copious criticism of Obama from the left over Guantanamo, drone strikes, lack of transparency, and more.
        If you do not know about these, it’s time you learned. Educate yourself.

        • JackLordGod

          Could you boobs actually read a post before commenting?

          You nitwits are going to maintain mainstream news has covered Obamas abuses with anywhere near the intensity the covered Bush’s?

          Please – You are being totally inane here.

          • 3H

            Back to name calling Jack? You know that never ends well for you. Right?
            Perhaps re-read my comment about what I see as the lack of coverage on these issues by some of the main-stream media.
            LOL.. one of these days you will decide to not give voice to your inner child. 😉

          • JacklordGOD

            >Back to name calling Jack? You know that never ends well for you. Right

            This coming from the guy who thought HMO’s were a free market invention rather than one of the most famous pieces of legislation passed by one of the most famous senators of our lifetime Ted Kennedy?


          • 3H

            LOL. one.. it was a question. I thought it was… there stands a good chance that I was wrong.
            Aren’t you the one that didn’t realize that uninsured visits to the emergency room help raise health insurance rates for everyone? And then compounded your error by calling David “idiotic”? Should I do your little over the top dance every time you’re wrong? Call you names… do the whole faux outrage thing? A shame you’re not more reflective and self-regulating.
            Secondly, what does that have to do with name calling? Evidently you’re so embarrased by your own inability to behave in a mature manner, you go for misdirection?

          • DavidAppell

            All Rupert Huse of Springfield has is name-calling…. And lying about other people. This is about all that keeps his ideology together.

          • DavidAppell

            It looks like Rupert depends on his daddy to take care of him:

            Rupert Huse and Sons,
            90965 Marcola Rd
            Springfield, OR 97478

          • DavidAppell
          • .

            Suggested theme song attending David Appell’s emergence as a wagwhatver: “Dang Me” …yeowa!

      • DavidAppell

        I would put it this way – Does anyone in their right mind seriously think Hillary Clinton did not have powerful and well funded campaign contributors behind her?
        How stupid.
        Do you think George W Hoover did not have powerful and well-funded campaign contributors behind him? Mitt Romney? John McCain?
        The US health care system is collapsing. All the data shows it. And all you can make of it is to look for partisan advantage.

      • Britt Storkson

        I brought up the secret trials issue to illustrate just how much contempt the politicians have for the average citizen/voter. Despite the fact that almost American is for secret trials, etc. we have them…And the politicians are against any change…Even to give us fundamental freedoms.

  • DavidAppell

    “So today, 140 million Americans (including members of Congress) directly receive government subsidies when they get health-care coverage through their employers. The Affordable Care Act extends government health-care subsidies to millions of other Americans, but for administrative reasons delivers the subsidy through a different mechanism. But so what? Why is the first subsidy somehow lost in a fog of flag waving and free enterprise talk, and the second the sure sign of galloping socialism?”

    — “The huge health-care subsidy everyone is ignoring,” Edward Kleinbard, Washington Post, October 15, 2013

  • HBguy

    Another untruthful Lars Larson drive by post.

    For those who care to read more than seven two line paragraphs that LL is so adept at spwewng here and on radio…

    I have no respect for LL or those who uncritically believe everythign he says and does.

    Facts SHOULD matter.

    • Noble Durham

      You resonate like “Theodore” and some other sic [4/20] callers.

  • Maximus

    I know that Obama ruled that Congress could be exempt, but as I see it they have not exempted themselves yet, it is just an option. SO I wish to see what they will do.

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