With legislation encompassing almost 3,000 pages, it will take time to find out exactly what the mandates in the newly passed health care law mean for America. After all, it wasn’t until the end of last week that the reconciliation bill was even made public. But here's something we already have uncovered. And it's shocking. -- In addition to all the special favors doled out to various congressional districts, it turns out that the congressional staff who wrote the health care bill put in special favors for themselves, too.
While everyone else in the United States -- from the top corporate executives to the grocery store checkout clerk -- will be forced to buy their insurance through heavily regulated state-run exchanges, the health care bill excludes one group: the leadership and committee staff. Yes, that’s right. The very people who wrote up this bill are refusing to be included themselves. Given the narrow definition of “congressional staff” on page 158 of the health care bill, the Congressional Research Service memo believes that courts will not require “professional committee staff, joint committee staff, some shared staff, as well as potentially those staff employed by leadership offices” to go through the exchanges. President Obama and his family are also exempt from the law.
Insurance plans will only be allowed in these exchanges if they meet rules governing benefit packages, quality standards and measures of uniformity of enrollment procedures. And it doesn't stop there they must also meet the rules about provider networks, the right kind of rating system, outreach, reinsurance and risk adjustment, and a variety of other federally determined processes. If these regulations are so wonderful, Americans have a simple question: what is it that Democrats know about the state-run insurance exchanges that make them want to avoid them?
The answer seems obvious. These regulations will raise costs, not lower them as the president promised, and lower the quality of medicine that policyholders receive.
Jim Manley, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's spokesman tried to put the best spin on this by telling Politico that they didn’t want language that would have required “people like legislative counsel, Architect of the Capitol, etc.” to be included in the exchanges. Though he made it sound like this was a matter of technical language, there remains the fundamental question of why anyone, especially somebody putting together and advocating this very bill, should be exempt in the first place. These public servants must to be governed by the same rules that the rest of us mere mortals have to obey.
Democrats have no obvious explanation about why this provision was quietly inserted into the health care bill. Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) warned that he and other Republican Senators tried to fix the problem of staff being excluded from the rules. “I tried to fix this inequity along with senators Grassley, Burr and Vitter, but Majority Leader [Harry] Reid obstructed our effort,” Senator Coburn said.
Obviously, the Democratic leadership knew full well that the bill they passed on Sunday with such fanfare is going to make things worse for the vast majority of those who are already insured. There is no other reason why the staff that wrote this bill would exempt themselves. The anger over the Democrats’ hypocrisy should be deafening.
John R. Lott, Jr. is a FoxNews.com contributor. He is an economist and author of "More Guns, Less Crime" (University of Chicago Press, 2010). The book's third edition will be published in May.
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