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Ask Laz: Are Congress members required to get coverage via Obamacare?

Scott Walker

Republican presidential candidate Scott Walker says that he’d require Congress members to buy insurance through Obamacare exchanges. Isn’t that already the law?

(AP)

As the Republican presidential candidates prepare to do oratory battle in Wednesday’s debate in Simi Valley, a question arises about the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare.

Herbert says he saw that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker — one of the GOP candidates — said recently that, if elected president, he would “light a fire under Congress” to repeal the reform law by signing “an executive order that will pull back the special deal President Obama put in place for Congress.”

That is, he’d make lawmakers get their coverage through Obamacare exchanges rather than take their insurance business elsewhere. Then, according to Walker, they’d see what a lousy program it is.

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Herbert asks: “Doesn’t Congress already have to live under the Affordable Care Act?”

Nope.

At least if they don’t mind paying more for health insurance.

Members of Congress and their staffers can purchase coverage through the Obamacare exchange in the District of Columbia.

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However, that’s not a requirement. If they choose, Congress members can buy their insurance on the open market — but they’ll lose their federal subsidy if they do.

In March, Sen. Ted Cruz, another candidate, made a big deal of how he’d be obtaining coverage via Obamacare even though he’s introduced legislation to repeal the reform law. He previously had been covered by his wife’s insurance.

“I believe we should follow the text of every law, even laws I disagree with,” Cruz said. “It’s one of the real differences. If you look at President Obama and the lawlessness, if he disagrees with a law, he simply refuses to follow it or claims the authority to unilaterally change.”

If he’d read the text summarizing the Affordable Care Act, Cruz would have found this:

“Nothing in the final rule or the law prevents a Member of Congress or designated congressional staff from declining a Government contribution for him or herself by choosing a different option for their health insurance coverage.”

So if members of Congress are like the rest of us and care about how much they pay for health insurance, they probably would have purchased coverage through the D.C. exchange and probably would have discovered that they got a pretty good deal.

The Census Bureau reported Wednesday that, thanks to Obamacare, the number of people without health insurance dropped last year by 8.8 million to 33 million.

It’s a fairly safe bet that not one of those 33 million uninsured works for Congress.

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If you have a consumer question, email me at asklaz@latimes.com or contact me via Twitter @Davidlaz. 


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