WSJ Pushes Myth That Congress Is Trying To Exempt Itself From Health Care Law

A Wall Street Journal editorial advanced the myth that Congress is trying to exempt itself from President Obama's health care law. In fact, Congress is attempting to fix an error in the law that prevents the government from making its normal contribution to staffers' health insurance.

Basing its editorial on an April 24 Politico article, the Journal wrote that “Congressional leaders were in hush-hush talks to exempt themselves and their staff from the wonders of ObamaCare.” The editorial, headlined “Exempting Congress From ObamaCare,” continued:

In March 2010 Mr. Grassley tried again to apply the law to all Congressional personnel and to White House officials. His amendment received every Republican vote but it was defeated with 55 Democrats (plus Socialist Bernie Sanders) voting no. However, thanks to Mr. Grassley's earlier success, the law still covered Members of Congress and some of their aides -- hence their latest effort to wiggle out of the ObamaCare mandates.


Congress will eventually find some way to protect itself, but its subterranean scrambling to do so exposes one of ObamaCare's greatest deceits: That if you like the insurance you have, you'll be able to keep it. Even the people who wrote the law don't believe it.

But as The Washington Post's Ezra Klein has explained, Congress is not discussing “exempting” itself from the health care law; it's attempting to fix an error in the law that prevents the government from making its current contribution to the insurance premiums of congressional staffers:

Back during the Affordable Care Act negotiations, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) proposed an amendment forcing all members of Congress and all of their staffs to enter the exchanges. The purpose of the amendment was to embarrass the Democrats. But in a bit of jujitsu of which they were inordinately proud, Democrats instead embraced the amendment and added it to the law.


But no one is discussing “exempting” congressional staffers from Obamacare. They're discussing creating some method through which the federal government can keep making its current contribution to the health insurance of congressional staffers.

In a follow-up post, Klein wrote that “Congress didn't give itself special treatment in Obamacare. It gave itself a special punishment.” He added:

If they go all the way in repealing the Grassley amendment, their relationship with the law will be exactly the same as anyone else who works for a large employer -- it'll be how the law is supposed to work. If they do some halfway measure where staffers have to buy insurance on the exchanges but the federal government can help them pay for it, then Obamacare will apply to them a bit more aggressively than it will apply anyone else who works for a large employer -- which was, I think, the actual intent of Sen. Chuck Grassley's amendment -- but it should basically work fine. But as it stands now, Obamacare creates problems for Congress that it doesn't create for any other large employer.