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COMMUNITY VOICE

Congress needs to end its health care exemption and live in the real world

Wednesday, October 2, 2013 - 12:01 am

Congressmen, staff and White House employees have chosen their personal health care plans in an exchange designed especially for government employees. This “exchange” or cafeteria of alternate plans with different costs and offering different coverage was the foundation of the concept of the Obamacare health care exchange.

The fundamental difference from the congressional model is that mandated items the companies are forced to cover have increased and thus reduced the choices (cost versus coverage). Of course, a major fallacy of expanding this government employee model to everyone is that all government employees are working with significant income.

Mandating all get coverage or pay fines will disguise the financial impact for a few years, especially since the “penalty tax” gradually rises. In other words, the flawed assumptions will gradually expose themselves as unsustainable. (This future “flaw” is one of many we predicted during the original debate. All of the current problems as well were predicted during that debate.)

Obama’s favored companies and unions — another problem of “socialist” government is the ability of government to choose “winners” and “losers” based upon political variables — received “exemptions” that gave them the right to subsidize their employee health care plans. This, of course, should be allowed for everyone, not just the chosen few but is counter to the fundamental equality argument of Obamacare.

Congress and its staff get 75 percent subsidies. Dropping this contribution would likely result in increased costs ranging from a minimum of $5,000 (individuals) to $10,000 (for families), which is an unsustainable loss for employees making $30,000 to $50,000. Even if you make $80,000, for a family of four of a congressional staffer, a $10,000 per year after-tax expense increase would hit hard. No wonder they are panicked.

Congressmen, like the White House, do have a choice: They can raise their staff salaries either by reducing other expenses or by laying off staff. For example, when I left Congress, my office budget was $1.5 million. Their office budgets are big enough to make adjustments.

Laying off people is hard, and so are expense cuts. Congressmen will point out that staffers are real people (as a former staffer I understand that I was a “real person”) and that competitors might “steal” their employees. My response is simple: Welcome to the real world. What do you think you did to every company and person in America? Why do you think people are getting hours cut and laid off across this nation?

The reason we Republicans tried to force Congress into the Obamacare system in the beginning was simple: If they are forced to live in the world they create, perhaps they will understand the difficulty of the laws they pass. If they continue to exempt themselves, it is unlikely they will feel the pressure to change it.

Denying special exemptions for Congress and the White House is essential if we are to avoid the continuing disastrous evolution of the government takeover of the entire health care system.

Mark Souder is a former 3rd District congressman.