Senator renews request from OPM on Affordable Care Act ruling

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) has renewed his effort to find out from the Office of Personnel Management why members of Congress and their staff continue to receive an employer contribution toward their health coverage.

Johnson, the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, sent a letter to acting OPM Director Kathleen McGettigan on Aug. 16 asking for more information about an agency rule that has let members of Congress and their staff buy health insurance on the Small Business Health Options Plan (SHOP) exchange since 2013.

“The SHOP exchange is intended for employers with less than 50 employees, yet Congress employs more than 16,000 people,” Johnson wrote in his letter. “Without this classification, members of Congress and their staff would be required to purchase health insurance on the individual exchange, where no employer contributions are permitted.”

In 2014, Johnson filed a federal lawsuit against the Obama administration challenging the rule, arguing the OPM rule “exempt[s] members of Congress and their staff from the full effects of the Affordable Care Act.” The lawsuit was dismissed for a lack of standing.

The issue came back up in 2016, when former acting OPM Director Beth Cobert faced Senate confirmation to serve as the permanent agency head. While Johnson submitted questions to Cobert about the OPM rule, former Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) held up her confirmation process over the issue.

“I have yet to receive satisfactory responses from OPM,” Johnson wrote. The HSGAC chair has asked OPM to send all records related to the drafting of this regulation, ranging from Jan. 1, 2010 to Oct. 2, 2013. Johnson’s letter requests OPM send the records by Aug. 31.

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