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Nov 01 2013

Senator to File Suit to Screw His Own Staffers

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin) apparently plans to file a lawsuit to deny government subsidies to members of Congress and their staff. Those people currently get about 75% of their premiums paid by the government, which is their employer. Just like most employees in the private sector do. For some reason, many Republicans are obsessed with making sure that doesn’t happen when they get their insurance through the ACA health care exchanges.

The LA Times’ Mike Memoli reports that Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) will file a lawsuit to prevent Congressional staffers and lawmakers from receiving subsidies when they purchase coverage in the Affordable Care Act’s exchanges, substantially increasing their health care costs.

Under current law, lawmakers and some of their aides will be required to drop their existing health care coverage in the tax-subsidized Federal Health Benefits Program (FEHB) and enroll in the insurance exchanges at the core of the health law beginning on Oct 1. Though Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) — the author of the amendment responsible for the shift — had initially stipulated that Congressional employees “use their existing employer contribution” to buy insurance, the final law did not specifically mention the role of the employer, leaving regulators concerned that the language could prohibit the government from contributing to the insurance costs of Congressional employees and leave poorly-paid aides responsible for the full cost of coverage.

In August, after the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) ruled that the Congress can apply their employer contributions towards their exchange plans, Republicans pledged to forfeit the contribution and fight to undo “special exemption.” Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) introduced legislation to require Congressional and executive branch employees to sign up for Obamacare without the employer contribution and Republicans considered including the provision in legislation to re-open the federal government.

Even if he were right — and he’s not — the lawsuit will be immediately dismissed. He has no standing because he is not being harmed in any way.

20 comments

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  1. 1
    gshelley

    This is one of those “up is down and black is white” cases. It’s a frequent complaint that Congress is getting special treatment and an exemption from Obamacare, when that is what these people are actually seeking – unlike every other employee at a large company or employer in the country, they want to prevent those in Congress from getting any sort of coverage from the employer.

  2. 2
    holytape

    Senator Diaper Boy (R-LA) and Senator Ron Feel-My-Johnson are just being pricks.

  3. 3
    matty1

    Not harmed? You mean the mental anguish he experiences knowing the whole world doesn’t revolve around him isn’t an actionable harm?

  4. 4
    Pierce R. Butler

    But it’s just not fair!

    Newt Gingrich, e.g., never had to file a suit to screw any member of his own staff: all it took was unbuckling his belt and pulling down his pants.

  5. 5
    eric

    I suspect he’s going after bigger fish than just Congress. A natural next step in the evolution of US healthcare would be for many private employers to stop offering specialized plans altogether, and instead contribute to employee ACA payments. He wants to stop that because he opposes the whole concept of generalized healthcare. Its “I don’t like it, so I’ll sabotage it” politics (as usual).

  6. 6
    Modusoperandi

    So now it’s…
    “Not only is Obama forcing his employees to go on the plan he’s exempting them from, and not only is he forcing them to take the best of Obamacare’s substandard insurance, but now he’s forcing them to not take the subsidy the law was never designed to provide them on the exchanges that those with employer-provided healthcare weren’t supposed to be on in the first place! Outrage!”
    Whew. That’s a mouthful.

  7. 7
    howardhershey

    They regard it as a win-win. If they lose, they get the kudos of the tea party nuts back home because they tried to screwed Federal employees by cutting their wages. If they win, they get to claim that Obama lied when he said that you wouldn’t lose your employer health insurance.

  8. 8
    howardhershey

    Wouldn’t the Congress of the U.S. of A. be considered a large employer (of 50 or more full-time equivalents) that the ACA requires offer insurance subsidies to its workers? If so, then it is the Republicans that are carving out a special (and particularly mean-spirited) exemption for Congress’ employees that . Or is each specific Congress critter responsible for his own staff paid solely through contributions to his campaign coffers so that each is considered a subcontractor?

  9. 9
    chilidog99

    So, if he follows through with this, I can see him asking a staffer to get him some coffee, then saying “this coffee tastes like shit!”

  10. 11
    anubisprime

    Footie stomping…well past time for a mid day nap!

  11. 12
    John Horstman

    Ron Johnson? Why, that’s the guy the slack-jawed morons in my state elected over the one senator to vote against the USA PATRIOT Act! Take THAT, sensible politics!

    Hopefully all of Congress won’t have to reap what we so ill-advisedly sowed.

  12. 13
    John Horstman

    I made a mistake: in the above statement, “guy” should actually read “empty Conservative suit”. Apologies for any confusion.

  13. 14
    Area Man

    Wouldn’t the Congress of the U.S. of A. be considered a large employer (of 50 or more full-time equivalents) that the ACA requires offer insurance subsidies to its workers? If so, then it is the Republicans that are carving out a special (and particularly mean-spirited) exemption for Congress’ employees…

    Here’s how this whole sorry thing got started. Congressmen and their staff have always received health benefits. Then Republicans decided that they’d try to embarrass the Democrats by offering an amendment requiring members of Congress and their staff to get insurance through the ACA exchanges. The idea was that the Democrats would say no, and then Republicans would say, “See, Obamacare is so bad that the Democrats refuse to use it for themselves!” Except this childish maneuver backfired when the Democrats supported the amendment. Since then, the OPM ruled that Congress and staff would get reimbursed by the government for the expense of getting insurance through the exchanges. So the Republicans then turned around and screamed, “Obamacare is giving Federal workers free health insurance, while you have to pay for it!” Which of course is stupid because they’ve always had free health insurance as does most anyone who works for a large employer. Then they floated another amendment, which was part of the shutdown/debt ceiling ransom note, stripping Congressmen and staffers of their reimbursement, which is effectively just a pay cut (unlike Congressmen, staffers don’t get paid well). That failed, and now we’ve moved on to Congressman Douchebreath filing a lawsuit.

  14. 15
    Michael Brew

    I’ve never understood people calling insurance through your employer “free health insurance” in the first place. No, you still have to work in order to get it, so unless you consider getting a paycheck from your employer “free money” the healthcare isn’t free.

  15. 16
    eric

    I’ve never understood people calling insurance through your employer “free health insurance” in the first place. No, you still have to work in order to get it,

    You are completely right. Not only do you have to work to get it, but the cost of your health care (and your work area, and parking, and vacation, and the electricity you use, and and and…) is factored into your labor cost and passed on to customers. Its passed on directly in the case of jobs like lawyers and consultants (who hire out to customers at a certain cost per hour), and indirectly in other cases. But nobody in the chain considers what you’re getting to be free.

    I’ll give you a toy case with reasonable numbers. Alice Corp. Sub-Contractors pays their employees $50/hour. When Bob’s Business hires someone from Alice, Alice Corp charges Bob $100/hour. Out of that, Alice Corp. pays the employee his/her $50/hour, makes $10/hour in profit, and uses the rest to pay for that “free” health care (and vacation time, and office space rental, and and and…)

    Free? No way. Want to know why Lawyers cost so much? Some of it is profit margin. Some of it is the cushy office. But some of it is because you’re also paying for their (typically top-notch) benefits package.

  16. 17
    tbp1

    @15 & 16: Yes. On a related topic, this is why, IMHO, those employers so upset about their employees having access to contraception in their health insurance have no case: the money that goes to insurance isn’t their money, it’s the employees’ money, just as much as the actual paycheck they receive is. It’s part of the compensation package. While I don’t doubt some of them would love to be able to dictate what their employees spend their money on, we haven’t sunk that far into corporate fascism yet.

  17. 18
    Steve Crossley

    @17 “While I don’t doubt some of them would love to be able to dictate what their employees spend their money on, we haven’t sunk that far into corporate fascism yet.” Sunk yet or sinking back too? It’s only about 100 years since the times when companies paid wages in scrip which could only be used at the company store or to pay rent on the company owned house. Wouldn’t the Koch brothers like that?

  18. 19
    matty1

    I’m sure I’ve seen a (possibly fake) list of rules for workers in a department store c1900 that included things like mandatory bedtimes, restrictions on how and when single staff could court and an out of work dress code.

  19. 20
    dogmeat

    I’m sure I’ve seen a (possibly fake) list of rules for workers in a department store c1900 that included things like mandatory bedtimes, restrictions on how and when single staff could court and an out of work dress code.

    Matty,

    I wouldn’t assume it was fake. I’ve seen teacher’s contracts from the first half of the twentieth century that literally did include morality clauses that made it grounds for dismissal to walk on the wrong streets or to be seen with a man other than their father or brother. Many school districts would fire teachers when they got married well into the 50s, most of those that wouldn’t do so, would fire them if the got pregnant.

    ———-
    @12

    Ron Johnson? Why, that’s the guy the slack-jawed morons in my state elected over the one senator to vote against the USA PATRIOT Act! Take THAT, sensible politics!

    I still fume over that. Feingold was one of the better guys in congress, genuinely a nice guy. I’ve yet to read anything proposed by Johnson that didn’t have me grumbling and pissed off for at least an hour. Republican party should change it’s logo from an elephant to a giant penis. They could keep GOP, just change the P to “prick.”

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