Sep. 13, 2013

Hope ‘n’ Change: Playing by the Same Rules

Whether it’s the lack of verification for subsidies or Congress being exempt from participating, ObamaCare isn’t a level playing field.

On Thursday, the House passed the “No Subsidies Without Verification Act,” 235-191, which would block ObamaCare insurance subsidy payouts until the Department of Health and Human Services implements a system to verify eligibility. Republicans aim to close a loophole that HHS created in July that allows people to apply for insurance subsidies without proving their income or whether their employer already provides federally approved health benefits.

HHS insists Republicans are overstating the opportunity for fraud and abuse because fear of future HHS and IRS audits will keep people honest. Yet this audit power hasn’t prevented people from, for example, playing fast and loose with the Earned Income Tax Credit. The Treasury Inspector General estimates that a quarter of those credits go to ineligible recipients, and equivalent fraud in ObamaCare would mean $250 billion in wrongful income redistribution over a decade. Predictably, the Democrat-controlled Senate won’t consider the House measure, though Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) introduced it, and the White House issued a veto threat. Team Obama needs the bodies to make the program work, and they don’t want stricter rules blocking folks from getting their “fair share.”

In related news, Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA) submitted a bill to subject members of Congress to ObamaCare just like the rest of America. This summer, the Office of Personnel Management quietly issued a blanket exception that allowed Congress and congressional staffers to continue to receive their generous health benefits and be exempt from having to enroll in ObamaCare. The excuse was that if Swamp-dwellers had to contend with ObamaCare, they might leave government service and seek more lucrative employment in the private sector. Republicans, who could have used this outrageous exemption as a powerful weapon against ObamaCare, were mum until now. Given Democrats’ enthusiasm for the law, it seems only logical that they be forced to enjoy it like everyone else. As for the concern about Beltway brain drain, repealing the exemption is a perfect opportunity to trim the fat – and ensuring that DC elites get a good taste of their own medicine.

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