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Alice Khosravy: Taxpayers Left Out of the Obamacare Special Exemption Boat — Again

Posted: August 16, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: August 16, 2013 2:00 a.m.

During the past few weeks, I found myself remembering something from a childhood book: "Laws control the lesser man. Right conduct controls the greater one."

It’s a Chinese proverb that stuck with me even longer than the name of the book my father used to read to me. The memory was triggered as I watched Republican leaders in Washington, D.C., try to hide as they worked to secure a special Obamacare exception for themselves and their staff.

When the law was nearing passage, Sen. Chuck Grassley. R-Iowa, stated: "If this law is so great, then we should subject ourselves to it."

With public pressure mounting, desperate lawmakers quickly agreed to add a provision that required Congress and staffers to participate in the Affordable Care Act Insurance Exchanges just like the general public.

In March 2010, President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law. Since that day, the public has watched the Republican leadership in Washington, D.C., emphatically insist that they were going to defund and repeal the law because it’s detrimental to the health care system and the economy.

Conservative leaders have warned the public that not all the Republican leadership was working as hard to repeal the law as it appeared.

Not surprisingly, the advice of Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi to "pass the bill to find out what is in the bill" was not a good idea. As the implementation date approached, the wheels of the Affordable Care Act have begun falling off the wagon.

First, President Obama announced that the deadline for the employer mandate would be extended from 2014 to 2015. This meant that employers would not be required to provide insurance.

The irony is that the individual mandate was left in place. So ordinary citizens and small businesses would be forced to follow the original mandates or face penalties.

Next, the issue of subsidies bubbled to the forefront of the discussion. It turns out that the government won’t really have a system in place to validate subsidy requests. So they elected to go with the honor system.

What?!? They don’t trust me to make my own health care decisions but they will trust me to tell them if I need help paying for what they decided that I have to buy?

Following subsidy verification came a lesson in simple mathematics. The Affordable Care Act required insurers to carry a mandatory penalty for smokers. Try this freshman year algebra problem:

1. Smokers must be charged a penalty, up to 50 percent higher premiums.

2. Insurance companies are required to accept all applicants regardless of pre-existing conditions.

3. Insurers can’t charge older customers more than three times the amount charged to the youngest adults.

4. How can 1-3 (above) be true at the same time?

Answer: They can’t. The reason is that the total cost of the insurance, including the smoking penalty, fails to comply with the law’s other provision limiting older smokers’ premiums.

This week, we also learned that the out-of-pocket cap will not be enforced, either.

The bottom line is that once again, the average taxpayer is getting the shaft.

So where is our loyal resistance (GOP leadership)? They were cowering in a corner securing a way for themselves and their staff to keep getting the health care subsidies they were supposed to lose when the rest of the country is forced into the abyss.

They were so bold as to try to pass a legislative fix for themselves in the spring, but when pressure mounted from the conservative wing of the party they switched gears.

Instead of listening to the public, who is sick of the Washingtonian mentality of a separate political class, they arranged to have an executive fix.

Why? They said they were afraid of "brain drain" among their staffers.

With approval ratings at their lowest, perhaps we should bid the brainy staffers adieu and try something different? Are you really that tone deaf?

Ignore the voters at your own peril.

This fix may be legal but it is not right, nor is it mandatory. The rule states that each member of Congress may opt his or her office "in" or "out" of the fix.

Republican West Virginia Rep. Shelley Moore Capito has already declared that she will not partake of this "congressional special treatment."

We must have legislators who are willing to live by the laws they enact.

Have you called your Congress member to find out if he is taking the "special treatment" exemption or not?

Alice Khosravy is a Santa Clarita Valley resident. "Right Here, Right Now" runs Fridays in The Signal and rotates among local Republican writers.


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