Act Three: Merkley votes Congress out of Obamacare

Dr Monica Wehby_thb

Dr. Monica Wehby for U.S. Senate

Good Enough For Us, But Not For Them

Portland – Hypocrisy is the scarlet letter of modern day politics, and Jeff Merkley is wearing it. From Main Street to Wall Street, Senator Merkley’s actions rarely match his rhetoric. Saying one thing, and doing another is the recipe by which Merkley and his political cohorts hold on to power, proving his allegiance lies not with the people of Oregon, but rather D.C. special interests.

The third act of hypocrisy we’ve caught Senator Merkley in is his vote against compelling members of Congress to acquire their insurance through the Obamacare exchange. While not surprising Senator Merkley would commit something so hypocritical, many Americans were outraged Congress was playing by a different set of rules than the rest of us.

During debate over the reconciliation bill, Merkley voted against an amendment forcing members of Congress to obtain their insurance through the Obamacare exchange.

  • Members of Congress: On the Motion (Motion to Waive Sec. 313 of the CBA Grassley Amdt. No. 3564 )… To make sure the President, Cabinet Members, all White House Senior staff and Congressional Committee and Leadership Staff are purchasing health insurance through the health insurance exchanges established by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. (HR 4872, Roll Call Vote 69, March 25, 2010, Vote: 43-56, Merkley Vote: No)
  • Members of Congress and their staff have come under fire because they are treated differently than most Americans under Obamacare.  Most notably, GOP Sen. David Vitter has crusaded against special loopholes that allow some to keep their old coverage. Vitter: Congress “wants to impose these new rules on the rest of America; it doesn’t want to live by them itself.” Under the president’s health-care law, Congress and much of its staff are supposed to lose their old health plans and instead buy coverage on the “exchanges” set up for individual Americans. But Vitter says that they are slated to get improper help, including money from the federal government, and that special loopholes allow some to keep their old coverage. Vitter wants that to stop. And so he has embarked on an improbable mission: to persuade other legislators to take valued benefits away from the very staffers who write their speeches, guide their votes, answer their mail and remind them of the birthdays of spouses and the names of Rotary Club presidents back home. (Washington Post, November 15, 2013)

And while Members of Congress and their staff were eventually forced into the exchange this year, that doesn’t mean their special treatment has diminished:

  • Loophole allows opt-out “This year, members of Congress and thousands of their staffers are finally signing up for health insurance provided by an ObamaCare exchange, fulfilling their commitment to live under the same system that millions of other Americans will use…But unlike those millions of Americans, members and staff have a way to opt out of ObamaCare — retirement. Under a rule issued by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) late last year, members and staff who retire will be able to revert back to health coverage under the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP). The FEHBP lets government retirees choose from a range of options, including health savings accounts, PPOs or HMOs. And none of it has anything to do with ObamaCare.” (3/3/14, The Hill)
  • Members and staff still receive cushy subsidies “Members and staff are already allowed to continue receiving government subsidies to buy health insurance under ObamaCare…Those subsidies have already been widely criticized as being too generous for members and their staff. Supporters of the subsidies, which include many members, say they are needed to avoid “brain drain,” or a sudden exodus of top staffers.” (3/3/14, The Hill)

We expect at the very least, those we send to Congress to abide by the rules and laws they set for the rest of us. The implementation of Obamacare led to the loss of 150,000 healthcare plans here in Oregon, higher premiums, less access, and a $716 billion cut to Medicare; it’s not right that Senator Merkley and his political cohorts voted against being subject to that same failed law. Instances like this are a clear and harsh reminder that career politicians go to Washington to serve themselves and their interests – Jeff Merkley is no exception.