Congress Members Can't Have the Same Obamacare As Everyone Else

Rep. Ron Barber, who sponsored a bill to end the government's contribution to lawmakers' health care plans, will donate the government's contribution to his insurance to charity. Rep. Ron Barber, who sponsored a bill to end the government's contribution to lawmakers' health care plans, will donate the government's contribution to his insurance to charity. Flickr user itif

Democratic Rep. Ron Barber joined the list of patriotic lawmakers who want you to know they're living with Obamacare just like you on Monday, when he announced his plans to donate the thousands of dollars he receives from his employer (the government) to subsidize his health insurance to a local charity. 

In other words, Rep. Barber joins a long list of politicians who have forgotten that lawmakers exempted themselves from that part of the health care law when they wrote it.

Barber, who sponsored a bill to end the government's contribution to lawmakers' health care plans, will donate the government's contribution to his insurance to charity for the rest of this year. “Members of Congress must play by the same rules as other Americans,” Barber said, according to The Hill. “So I have pledged to donate the full amount of the Affordable Care Act government subsidy to southern Arizona charities each month during 2014.”

The thing is the estimated 150 million Americans who receive employer-sponsored health insurance aren't eligible for Obamacare. But, as Politifact explained, Obamacare passed with amendment from Sen. Chuck Grassley that required Congress to apply for insurance through the exchanges. The amendment didn't, however, say whether the government's contribution to those plans would follow. Last August the U.S. Office of Personnel Management decided that Congress could receive their employer contribution.

That led to Sen. David Vitter's amendment to rescind the contribution (or, in his words, Congress' "Obamacare exemption"). House Speaker John Boehner reportedly worked with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to make sure staffers could keep their contribution, which Congress still receives. And that leads us to the present, where leaders like Rep. Barber continue to perpetuate the myth that enrolling in an unsubsidized Obamacare plan is the option most Americans face. Regardless of one's opinion of the health care law that just isn't true. 

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, in 2012 48 percent of American had employer plans, 30 percent were enrolled in Medicaid or Medicare, 15 percent were uninsured, and 6 percent were insured through "other" private or public options, basically the individual market. Thanks in part to Obamacare, the number of uninsured has since gone down, but the basic idea is clear: when Barber, who is up for re-election, says he wants to be just like the rest of Americans, he means he wants to be like the small fraction enrolled in Obamacare. 

(Image via Flickr user itif)

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