Is it possible for President Donald Trump to do one thing – even one thing! – that Republicans, Democrats and Deplorables can agree on? In fact, he can, and I urge him in the strongest terms to do it immediately.
Please, Mr. President, take away the subsidies and sweet deals members of Congress give to themselves and their staffers when it comes to health care insurance. Let them and those around them deal with the same high cost of insurance, and the same high deductibles that drain the pockets of everyday working Americans. Let them get a bitter bite of the Affordable Care Act, too. It can’t happen quickly enough.
Like most Americans, I thought Democrats, acting alone, had created this carve-out for themselves as part of the ACA. In truth, it was done administratively – after the fact, in late 2012 – and can be ended administratively, too. Most Americans – Democrats and Republicans who now have to deal with the Obamacare monstrosity – overwhelmingly support taking this benefit away from members of Congress.
I learned this in a short July 24 column in The Wall Street Journal, “Force Congress’s hand on health care,” by Heather R. Higgins, CEO of Independent Women’s Voice. She wrote that in August 2013 (Republicans were in charge … there are no “good guys” in this story) Congress “begged the Obama Administration for relief” from the ACA monster of their own making, and the Office of Personnel Management “ratified the fiction” that the House and Senate were “small businesses.” “That allowed,” she writes, “the OPM to establish a system of special subsidies and exemptions, sparing Congress the embarrassment of a self-serving vote.” So the politicians, including the quartet who serve Rhode Island today, had bureaucrats give themselves a sweet deal and stick the rest of us with the “Affordable” Care Act. (And they wonder why they are so universally held in such low regard. And they wonder why they were taken out by “the deplorables” last fall…)
Here’s the part of Higgins’ column you’ll enjoy most:
“Many staffers are exempted and allowed to remain on their old insurance plans. Members of Congress and their designated ‘official office’ staff are insured through the District of Columbia’s small business exchange – but they receive a one-of-a-kind subsidy from their employer (taxpayers) of up to $12,000, or about 70 percent of their premiums.
“All that would be illegal for anyone else. In fact, it’s illegal for Congress, too.”
The president, writes Higgins, can instruct the OPM to end the exemption and subsidies for Congress with the stroke of his pen.
To quote Nike, Mr. President, “Just do it.” There would be no more clear signal of “draining the swamp” than this. Americans support this. Do it!
If we all want real health care reform, something Republicans and Democrats can both agree to for the good of all, there is no more effective way than to allow members of Congress to personally suffer along with the rest of us, and get to know firsthand what they have put us all through. Let them listen to young staffers complain when they have to pay hundreds of dollars out of pocket for a small visit to the urgent care. Let them watch their medication costs rise from $10 per month to $90 for the same bottle of pills. Then, perhaps, they will understand. Then, perhaps, they will act.
Liberals have won the war with Obamacare. It’s over. The cost of Medicaid has exploded, and there are too many fat fingers in the pie. It is the new “health care welfare,” and it cannot be undone. Cowardly Republicans, after seven years of lies, proved that in the past month. Democrats have nothing better. Working Americans are the losers.
Now it’s time for bipartisanship. Something better has to be created. And there would be no better spark to force members of Congress to sit down and talk with one another than to take away the cheap health care they and their staffers enjoy while the rest of us suffer, paying not only for our own problems, but theirs, too.
Grab the pen and make it happen, Mr. President. Americans of all political persuasions will thank you.
Ward is publisher of The Valley Breeze newspapers