February 19, 2014 at 9:04 am

OUR EDITORIAL

Editorial: No special deal for Congress

Obamacare is the law of the land. As such it should apply to congressional staffers as it does the rest of America. (Mladen Antonov / Getty Images)

The Obama administration continues to implement the Affordable Care Act in ways that defy the language of the law. The Office of Personnel Management is giving Congress and its staffers health care premium payments that other Americans in the Obamacare exchanges canít get, and that arenít allowed for by statute.

The pre-tax payments cover about 75 percent of the premium costs. The issue isnít that the federal government, like most large employers, is covering a portion of employeesí health premiums. Itís that in crafting the bill, Congress specifically approved a Republican-sponsored amendment that required lawmakers and their staffs to leave their old federal insurance behind and go onto the exchanges created under the health care law.

Additionally, Congress debated and then rejected allowing the federal government to continue offering premium support. Just like all other Americans under Obamacare, members of Congress and their staffs could only qualify for subsidies if their incomes were low enough.

Democrats signed off on the amendment but later regretted the decision. Rather than accept accountability for amending the law, Congress turned to the Office of Personnel Management, which approved an exemption that the president signed off on.

If Congress has changed its mind about its own insurance benefits, it should also have changed the law.

Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., has filed a lawsuit to overturn the decision. The case is in U.S. District Court in Green Bay. Johnson stresses heís not against an employer providing health care contributions, but he doesnít want members of Congress to get special favors. Under Obamacare, individuals who buy plans on the health care exchange are responsible for their premiums.

Taxpayer-funded subsidies for plans on the exchanges are designed for low-income Americans, not those, like Congress, who earn good salaries.

These special subsidy payments are not only unfair but also illegal, Johnson contends. ďIf Congress doesnít like the law as written, it should pass a new law,Ē he says.

Thatís true of the many changes that have been made to Obamacare by executive fiat instead of the legislative process.