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The Hypocrisy Of Congress’s Gold-Plated Health Care

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This is a Reblogged from http://online.wsj.com 

Posted by WILLIAM BENNETT And CHRISTOPHER BEACH

Special subsidies for Hill workers trample on the Founders’ code of equal application of the law.

· As close observers of history and human nature, James Madison and the other Founders of the U.S. Constitution knew that the equal and unbiased application of the law to all people, especially elected officials, is essential to freedom and justice and one of the primary safeguards from authoritarianism and oppression by a ruling class.

And so, referring to the members of Congress, James Madison wrote in Federalist No. 57: “[T]hey can make no law which will not have its full operation on themselves and their friends, as well as on the great mass of the society.”

Today, elected officials need to be reminded of these truths. Under pressure from Congress, the White House has carved out a special exemption for Congress and its staffers from ObamaCare—the law it recently deemed necessary for the entire country. No Republicans voted for ObamaCare. Yet it appears that some of them support the exemption President Obama approved on his own—so they would not have to go on record with a vote for or against it.

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This is the height of hypocrisy, and worse, a trampling of the Founders’ code of equal application of the law. Having forced a health law on the American people, the White House and Democrats now seek to insulate themselves from the noxious portions of the law, and from the implementation struggles, indecision and uncertainty that many other Americans face today.

In other words, Congress’s health-care premiums will not rise, but yours may. Members of Congress will be able to afford to keep their health-insurance plan, but you may be kicked off yours. They will be able to afford to keep their doctors, but you may have to find a new one.

Rep. Ron DeSantis, a Republican from Florida, recently put forward legislation—aptly named the James Madison Congressional Accountability Act—which would end the special exemption. In the Senate, Republicans David Vitter of Louisiana and Mike Enzi of Wyoming have also introduced legislation to end the exemption.

In response, several Democratic senators have reacted by drafting legislation that would punish anyone who votes for Sen. Vitter’s plan by permanently blocking an exemption from them and their staff, even if Mr. Vitter’s law doesn’t pass. It doesn’t get more vindictive and petty than that.

All this began when Congress passed the Affordable Care Act in 2010. It compelled Congress and its staff to participate in ObamaCare and its insurance exchanges like other Americans who don’t have employer-provided plans. But in their haste and confusion over legislation so long that few even read it all, some members of Congress voted for the law without realizing that the final bill had no mention of the very generous premium contributions the government makes to federal employees as part of the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program.

Imagine the horror when these elected officials, who make $174,000 a year, realized that not only must they and their staffers be subject to inferior-quality health exchanges like the millions of ordinary Americans, but they might also have to shell out thousands of dollars for increased premiums if they exceed the subsidy income cutoff.

The White House, under heat from Congress, directed the Office of Personnel Management to carve out special rules so that the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program can continue to contribute to the health plans used by Congress and congressional staff.

Congress complains that without its special subsidies the Hill will suffer a “brain drain” as staffers leave their jobs because of increasing out-of-pocket insurance costs. Heaven forbid Congress suffer the same fate as private companies like UPS, which recently had to cut health-care benefits entirely for employees’ spouses; or labor unions, like the 40,000 International Longshore and Warehouse Union workers who recently left the AFL-CIO citing as one factor ObamaCare’s tax on their “Cadillac” health-care plans.

You’d think that the authors of ObamaCare would have been prepared to cope with its effects. Sen. Ron Johnson, a Republican from Wisconsin, has already put money aside in his budget to help supplement his staff’s health-care costs in anticipation of the new law. Other congressmen should have done the same.

Regardless of whether or not they support ObamaCare, members of Congress should refuse the special exemption.

The law they enacted should apply to them.

Mr. Bennett, a former secretary of education, is a fellow of the Claremont Institute, and host of the nationally syndicated radio show, “Morning in America.” Mr. Beach is the show’s executive producer.

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