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Letter to the editor: Government officials should not be exempt

Friday, October 4, 2013 - 12:01 am

The polls agree that the Affordable Care Act is unpopular. More unpopular in Indiana, though, is that officialdom has made a deal with the White House to exempt itself from the full cost of the law.

A member of the Indiana Policy Review foundation relates a conversation during a recent public meeting in Aboite Township with one of Indiana’s U.S. senators. A woman in the audience asked the senator (it is not important to the point here, alas, whether it was the Democrat or Republican) why he and his staff should be exempt from “Obamacare” while at the same time his constituents face skyrocketing insurance premiums, a reduction in the quality of health care or both.

The senator’s response, which struck our member as focus-group boilerplate, was that he was not exempt, that he faced the same hard choices as other Americans. And besides, he might have added, the president made him do it.

The moment was defused but, oops, the senator left something out.

In an essay for the Wall Street Journal, Bill Bennett, former U.S. Secretary of Education under Ronald Reagan, wrestles to the ground such sidestepping obfuscation. It may be narrowly true that the senator and his staff will abide by the new law but, unlike a hapless constituency, they will be reimbursed by their employer (that same constituency).

“Imagine the horror when these elected officials, who make $174,000 a year, realized that not only must they and their staffers be subject to inferior-quality health exchanges like the millions of ordinary Americans, but they might also have to shell out thousands of dollars for increased premiums if they exceed the subsidy income cutoff,” writes Bennett. “The White House, under heat from Congress, directed the Office of Personnel Management to carve out special rules so that the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program can continue to contribute to the health plans used by Congress and congressional staff.”

In colonial America, men were flogged for less.

Craig Ladwig, editor of the Indiana Policy Review.