WASHINGTON (AP) — A Republican senator on Monday sued to stop the government from paying most of the medical insurance premiums for members of Congress and their aides who are now required to obtain coverage through the new health care law’s state exchanges.
Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., filed a lawsuit Monday in U.S. District Court in Green Bay, Wis., challenging a September ruling by the Office of Personnel Management. The agency ruled that lawmakers and their staffs should continue to receive health care benefits covering about 75 percent of their premium costs after leaving the health insurance program for federal workers.
Johnson said the OPM ruling on the application of President Barrack Obama‘s health care overhaul to lawmakers and their aides amounted to special treatment for Congress: “It’s a basic issue of fairness,” he said.
The lawsuit marks a new front in some Republicans’ attempt to stop what they say is a special carve-out for political elites in the Affordable Care Act. Last year, Johnson joined other Republicans in backing an effort by Sen. David Vitter, R-La., to halt federal contributions toward health coverage for members of Congress, their staffs and other political appointees in the federal government.
The health care overhaul law sometimes referred to as “Obamacare” requires members of Congress and their staffs to leave the federal health plan and buy insurance through exchanges created by the law. But only low-income Americans are eligible for subsides on the exchanges.
The federal subsidies that members of Congress and their staff currently receive are in line with those paid by most private employers and are the same as other federal employees who are continuing in the federal plan. But Johnson argues that they were not specifically detailed in the health care law and therefore are illegal.
“This lawsuit is about enforcing the law,” Johnson said at a Capitol press conference on Monday.