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Why It Would Be Great if Congress Was Forced to Buy Their Own Health Insurance at Full Cost

Published Apr 28, 2013 - Follow author Allison Christians: - Permalink

From FDL, highlights:
Making Congress and their staffers pay the full cost of their insurance is fine with me because that is how the law will treat millions of middle class families. All members of Congress and most staffers will have salaries high enough they would not qualify for subsidies on the exchanges. If Congress is going to make regular people with similar salaries buy insurance out-of-pocket than that should be good enough for Congressional aides.
I also have no problem with the law forcing Congressional staffers to lose their relatively good insurance because that is a long term goal of the law for everyone. The excise tax on “Cadillac coverage” was designed to stop employers from providing good insurance, covering a large share of your premium, and/or getting them to drop offering coverage altogether.  What might happen to Congress is very similar to what Congress intended to happen to others. 
Finally, if Congress is worried their staffers can’t afford to buy insurance out-of-pocket they can just use the money Congress would have spent on their premium and raise their salaries by the corresponding amount. The financing of the law was based on the theory that a dollar in benefits is exactly the same as a dollar in salary. The theory, put forward by Obama’s economists, advisers and the Joint Tax Committee is that if you force companies to offer their employees worse insurance, they will increase their wages by an equal amount. This sounds like a perfect opportunity to put the theory to the test.
Have laws apply to lawmakers the same as it applies to the governed, have the law play out as it was designed, and put the underlying economic theory to the test: these seem like common sense ways to make sure that our democratic decision-making structure is working. Unfortunately we have ample evidence that this structure is working better for lawmakers (and lobbyists) all the time, and correspondingly worse for everyone else.  Congress exempting itself from things that won't personally benefit its members is not a new story, and in light of the brazen roll-back of the "Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act" in order to make it easier for members to quietly line their pockets via insider trading, there is ample reason for pessimism.

Still, WAPO has a story about how Congress isn't really trying to exempt itself, just trying to fix some inadvertent writing in the code that caused some unintended consequence that only a few people understand enough to get upset about. A book could be written on that recurring theme.

Tagged as: governance institutions rule of law social contract u.s.

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