To understand just about everything that is wrong with Washington these days, look no further than the backdoor effort by President Obama and congressional Democrats and Republicans to exempt senators, representatives and Hill staff members from paying the full cost of their health insurance premiums under Obamacare. The first question addressed to the president during his confabs earlier this week with congressional Democrats concerned changing Obamacare's requirement that congressional employees get their health insurance through the state exchanges and that they pay the full cost of the premiums for their coverage.
That provision was inserted during the Obamacare debate by Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, who rightly believes that what's good for the congressional goose is good for America's taxpaying ganders. The Capitol Hill gang must have been asleep at that point in the debate because the Grassley provision somehow made it into the law. But now members of Congress and their staffs are "freaked out," according to Rep. Billy Long, R-Mo., at the prospect of losing their current sweet deal. As things presently stand, senators, representatives and their staffs get health insurance through the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program, which provides hundreds of options to millions of federal employees and retirees. Taxpayers cover 75 percent of the cost of the premiums.
Now the poor dears on the Hill are fretting over the prospect of having to pay their own way like the rest of America's taxpayers. According to the New York Times, without the tax-paid premium subsidy, individuals will have to pay $5,000 more and families will see $11,000 premium increases under many of the most popular insurance options. According to the Missouri Republican, staffers are "thinking about leaving government service. They're thinking about taking jobs other places." Oh, the indignity of having to get a job outside of government!
The hypocrisy here is rank, even by Washington standards. Obama reportedly promised his Democratic friends that he will work with them on a way to, as the Times gingerly put it, "to come up with a creative interpretation of the health care law that would allow the federal government to kick in for insurance as private employers do, but so far an answer has proved elusive."
Any time somebody in Washington uses the words "creative" and "interpretation" in the same sentence about a law, be assured they are looking for a way to get around it. That's exactly what is happening here. It's yet another illustration of Washington lawmakers passing laws they expect everybody but themselves to follow. That's one of the most frequently cited reasons why the American public has so little respect for official Washington.
It's true that most Americans presently get their health insurance through their employers and their employers usually pay a portion of the costs. But the "employer" here are the taxpayers who labor five months of the year to pay taxes that, among much else, subsidize health insurance premiums for those working on Capitol Hill. They freaked out long ago.