Rush Limbaugh on Congressional Health Care Subsidies

 

RUSH: I’m looking for a story here. People, I think, are confused about whether members of Congress are on Obamacare or not. They attempted to exempt themselves in this latest round. Remember, they were caught, in the repeal and replace, the skinny repeal and all that, they were caught. They were gonna exempt themselves whatever they passed. Here’s why. You may have forgotten this.

The original Obamacare, when it became law, congressional staffers, the people that work for members of the House and Senate, complained loudly they couldn’t afford it. Many of these people make six figures. Not all of them. Some staff will make as high as, what, 147 to $150,000. Most are not that high, but a lot of them make six figures. And they almost got together as a union and complained that they couldn’t afford it. They were exempt — well, they were not permitted to play ball in one of the Obama exchanges because D.C. isn’t a state.

Well, you might remember that Obama, after all the caterwauling, issued an executive order that effectively ran Senate and congressional staffers through the Office of Personnel Management, which gave them a 70% subsidy on the purchase of Obamacare insurance.

Well, it turns out that members of the House and Senate got the same deal. They’re on Obamacare, but they are subsidized to the same degree that people who can’t afford it are. That’s what they want to hold on to. The original Obamacare bill did not — it’s kind of a convoluted thing, but they were not exempted.

This was one of the things that some insisted on. Not fully. And the only way that Obama — since D.C. was not permitted to have an exchange ’cause it’s not a state, the Office of Personnel Management is how Obama chose to run the money, the budget item that allocated the money for members of Congress and their staffs.

Now, the members of Congress thing didn’t get publicized. When the news was made about this, it was all that the staff was unable to afford it. And they were openly complaining. I’ll never forget it. These are people that work in Washington, and it was as though they had no idea that they had just helped pass a law that even more Americans were unable to afford, Americans making far less than they, the staffers make, and yet here they were caterwauling and complaining, “We can’t afford it, it’s too expensive.”

What do you think that means for everybody else out there? But that didn’t seem to register with them. It was all about what they needed and what they wanted. And so they were effectively — I think the number is 70% — I think they were effectively subsidized 70% of the premiums so they could afford it. Government, in other words, is paying for Senate and congressional staffers’ health care and members of the House and Senate. They are under Obamacare but heavily subsidized.

Was a special exchange created or something for D.C.? I think there was some convoluted change in the law that Obama did via executive order that created an effective exchange for government officials to use in Washington. But it’s not a state exchange. The only outfits that could actually have exchanges were the states, by statute.

And a lot of people are confused now because of the news from last week that members of Congress wanted to exempt themselves from what they were passing. And the reason that they wanted to exempt themselves is because they like what they’ve got. They’re being subsidized right now and they didn’t want that to change no matter what else they did.

I remember we had a caller from last week that said that’s the news that people need to hear. In addition to all these Republicans promising in campaigns to repeal it, then when the moment of truth comes, failing to do so. I think she had a point.

Anyway, here’s Ted. Ted’s in Portage, Michigan. You’re up next, sir, and it’s great to have you here. Hi.

CALLER: Hi. It’s great to talk to you.

RUSH: Thank you, Ted.

CALLER: My point is — I actually have two. The first is you keep talking about critical thinking, and I agree with that. Well, it’s time for us to become critical thinkers and realize that the Republicans are never going to accomplish what they said they were going to. Look at the past history. I mean, Benghazi, lots of hearings. Nothing happened. IRS. Lots of hearings. Nothing happened. All of these investigations that they do basically result in nothing.

So my point is that our goal should be to limit the amount of damage they can do at this point and basically primary every single one of them with good, solid candidates. The coalition that elected Trump needs to find people who basically can answer the challenge, prepare themselves, and be solid candidates. That’s my first point.

RUSH: What I hear you saying out there, Ted, is that Trump actually needs to spearhead a new party. That Trump voters actually need to organize effectively into a New Party. They call themselves Republicans, but it’s effectively a new party where they primary incumbents and try to replace them.

CALLER: I believe that is true. I think that that is the only hope.

RUSH: Well, that’s always been why third parties, actual third parties, failed, is because all they ever had is a presidential candidate. They’ve never had a —

CALLER: Well, they can run under the Republican banner but they simply have to be a strong, solid candidates. What usually happens in primaries is they find somebody who’s gonna be in town in November, and that’s who they run. I’m talking about finding people now who can be actually brought up to speed and get name recognition and be real solid candidates.

RUSH: All right. Playing devil’s advocate, all the people you’re talking about have seen what has happened to Trump by the media. How many of them do you think want the same kind of never ending, daily anal exam, including their families, including their tax returns, including who they’ve ever met from Russia? How many people would put up with what Trump has put up with?

CALLER: Well, I think there is a core — and I’m one of them, I mean, quite honestly. Yeah, I realize it would be difficult and there’s always going to be casualties, but we’ve come to the point now where you either roll over and accept what’s coming or you have to fight. And I am very impressed with Donald Trump. I don’t agree with him on everything. But the kind of abuse that he has stood up under makes the man an absolute hero. I mean, I don’t know any politician who could have done it. So if you look at him and you say, you know what, this guy can do it, I believe there are people out there who would be willing to do it.

RUSH: All right, Ted —

CALLER: But we have to find ’em.

RUSH: I hear you. I’ll tell you what he’s saying. Repeal and replace Republicans.

BREAK TRANSCRIPT

RUSH: Let me try to end this confusion on whether members of Congress and their staff are on Obamacare. They are. It’s entirely due to an amendment from Charles Grassley that forced them to buy their health insurance via the Obamacare exchanges. As I go through this, I think many of you are gonna remember it. In the early stages (like is the case with practically every piece of legislation), members of Congress find a way to exempt themselves from it. This is something that we’ve cataloged over the years, that there are always two sets of rules.

There are rules that all of us have to abide by and rules that leaders have to abide by — and in many cases, they exempt themselves from the very legislation that they pass and that gets signed into law. And Charles Grassley tried to do an end run around that. Grassley had an amendment that forced members of Congress and their staff to buy health insurance via the Obamacare exchanges, and that’s when the staff started bellyaching about how they couldn’t afford it. I’ll never forget this, ’cause I thought the irony was rich.

Here are the people who, in many cases, probably helped write Obamacare, and after it’s passed into law, now they’re complaining they can’t afford it with absolutely no awareness or concern for the same set of circumstances for all the people in the country affected by it? They can’t afford it, either! But when they complain about it, they’re effectively told to shut up. When members of Congress or their staff complain about it, well, then everybody perked up and listened. So what Obama did was order the Office of Personnel Management to transfer the money that Congress had been providing members for health insurance.

They transferred that money to subsidize the members’ and their staffs’ Obamacare premiums, and they did that simply by bending the rulings and claiming that they are Congress’ employers (laughing) which is not true. Anyway, this led to the creation of an Obamacare exchange in D.C. that is for Congress and their staff only. It’s got some other wrinkles in it, but they’re on Obamacare. They don’t have to face the problems of Obamacare because their premiums are subsidized — it’s actually, 73% — by the taxpayers.

Which means that they can afford platinum plans that have no deductibles or copays. And the reason this story has surfaced is because Trump is threatening to take away this subsidy, which he can do and probably should. The story is in the Wall Street Journal. “Donald Trump Threatens to Cancel Some Health-Care Benefits for Lawmakers — President Donald Trump made one of his most explicit threats to cut off payments to insurance companies to force senators and lobbyists back to the bargaining table for a GOP health care bill, and saying, for the first time, that he was also willing to cancel some of [congressional] health care benefits.

“‘If a new HealthCare Bill is not approved quickly, BAILOUTS for Insurance Companies and BAILOUTS for Members of Congress will end very soon!’ Mr. Trump tweeted Saturday,” and what he’s talking about is eliminating the 73% subsidy that congressional staff and members of Congress get to help them afford Obamacare. “Trump has threatened for months to stop reimbursements from insurance companies, which is part of the Affordable Care Act.” And, by the way, those reimbursements?

Those bailouts are there because Obama knew that health care, as he had written it — as he had signed into law — was gonna eventually destroy these companies. But the design was for them to all fail at some point, which would then present the government as the last remaining option (i.e., single payer). So if you’re writing a bill that’s gonna destroy the insurance companies and you desperately need them until you destroy them, what do you do? You offer to bail them out during the period of time between now and when single payer comes.

That’s what President Obama did. That’s why they’re called bailouts for the insurance companies and “bailouts” is just another word for subsidies. “Trump has threatened for months” to do this, but his administration has always paid them in the end, the subsidies, “including amid significant uncertainty in June and at a critical moment in Republican negotiations just a week ago. The next set of payments, which total millions of dollars for insurers that have lowered deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs for the poorest enrollees, is due in three weeks.

“Those payments have been challenged in court by House Republicans who argue the money was never authorized by Congress. A federal judge has sided with the House but allowed the subsidy payments to continue until the litigation concludes. Democrats have said that cutting off the payments would be tantamount to sabotaging the insurance markets, and Republicans would bear the blame for this.” Again, that’s backwards. It is a Democrat-mainstream media lie that people getting Obamacare subsidies are so poor.

Individuals who make over $47,000 a year — which is the median income — qualify for subsidies. The whole point was for everybody to be subsidized so that they would never support getting rid of it. It’s a classic Democrat-statist trick. You create an entitlement; you put everybody on it, as many as possible. There are people earning 70,000 a year who get subsidies for Obamacare insurance. It’s all done on purpose. You start giving away money, it’s gonna be real tough to take it back from them down the road if you have to. This is all part of the design when this thing was written to make repealing it really tough.

That’s why Lisa Murkowski says, “I did not come here to hurt people. I did not get elected to hurt people.” She wasn’t hurting anybody. That was in reaction to the CBO score that 22 million would lose their health insurance. Anyway, the short version here is that Trump is threatening to just get rid of the 73% subsidy for Congress and its staff if they don’t get their act in gear. So the bottom line there is that Trump hasn’t given up. Trump does not think this is over. He’s not acting as though it’s over.

Now, in the old days, when a major piece of legislation bit the dust, that was it for a long time. This kind of vote was considered final, final. But Trump is not looking at it that way. I don’t think he looks at anything that way, quite honestly. I think Trump’s attitude is, “We’ll take care of it. We’ll take care of everything. We’re eventually gonna take care of this.” He’s not on a timeline here; he doesn’t think it has to be done by this year or else.

You know, traditional, conventional Washington thinking is: “You gotta get it done this year. You gotta get it down for the midterms! You gotta get it!” I don’t think he looks at it that way. That frustrates a lot of people who think that he ought to be more conventional politically, strategically, and that sort of thing. But this is why there’s now a bunch of people running around like stuck pigs, because of (chuckling) that 73% subsidy for members of Congress and their staff.

Here’s what happened, folks. This is a Forbes article from back April 15, 2016. But now, all of this happened in 2010. Remember, all of this is seven years ago. “The Affordable Care Act threw members and staff out of the federal employee health benefit program.” Remember that? You remember the federal government had a great health insurance plan for federal employees, and at the time a lot of people said, “Why not just make that national?”

Why not just take that and make that the national health care program? It was that good in the sense that it was that affordable and that beneficial for members of Congress. The Affordable Care Act got rid of that and said that they can only get health benefits through one of the Obamacare exchanges.

“Under pressure from Congress and the president himself, the federal Office of Personnel Management (which administers benefits for federal workers, including Congress) decided the House and Senate would participate in the District of Columbia’s ‘Small Business Health Options Program,’ or ‘SHOP’ Exchange, rather than the Exchanges that exist for individuals.”

So, once again, a separate entity was created for federal employees in Washington, Small Business Health Options Program. The reason is that federal law would not allow members and staff to keep receiving a taxpayer contribution of up to $12,000 toward their premiums if they enrolled in individual market exchanges.

See, the original Obamacare law would not allow them to do that because they were in D.C. Well, if they couldn’t do that, they couldn’t qualify for subsidies. So they started bellyaching, “We can’t afford it, we can’t afford it.” So Obama rode to the rescue and funneled money through the Office of Personnel Management that got them on this SHOP program, Small Business Health Options Program, and that’s how they got covered, and that’s how they ended up being subsidized 73% on their premiums and copays.

“Both federal and D.C. law expressly prohibited any employer with more than 50 employees from participating D.C.’s SHOP Exchange.” Well, how can members of Congress be on it? Because the federal government certainly employs more than 50 people. Well, the Office of Personnel Management had to change the rules. And the Forbes article argues that what they did was that illegal but that everybody ignored it. That’s why Trump can easily do away with it if he chooses to.

BREAK TRANSCRIPT

RUSH: Springfield, South Dakota. It’s Larry. Welcome, sir. Great to have you with us. How you doing?

CALLER: Thanks the for taking my call, Rush. I’ll get right to the point. About three weeks ago you had on your program that Obama had put across this bill, the health care bill, it stated this: This bill can be changed any time at the discretion of the Health and Human Services director. Now, why don’t we just let that thing fail and change it to what he said?

RUSH: Well, I’m glad you brought this up. Let me explain this again. In Obamacare as it exists now, there are three separate mandates. And most people are only aware of two. There’s the employer mandate, says your employer has to provide insurance if the company is larger than 50 employees. Then there is the personal mandate which says that you have to buy the insurance.

The third mandate is actually the statutory mandate called the Essential Health Benefits, and these are regulations that Obama just created after the law was passed, and they contain things like forcing the Catholic Church to insure for abortion, forcing 75-year-old people to insure against pregnancy, these kind of things. And the reason that these Essential Health Benefits are in there is to raise money for the sick and the elderly. That’s the whole portfolio plan, to get young people who don’t need any health care or coverage spending gobs of money to subsidize the treatment for the poor and the elderly.

Now, health care, Obamacare as written, over 2,000 pages, frequently contains the passage “or as the secretary shall determine,” and what it means is that the secretary of Health and Human Services is permitted to adjudicate disputes or just create things within Obamacare. This was done on purpose, obviously, at the outset. They know they’re creating a new entitlement and let the federal government, the bureaucracy just write regulation after regulation without having to go through Congress and load this thing up with benefit after benefit after benefit that makes it practically impossible to one day repeal it.

Now, the original Republican health care plan in the House, remember, there were three phases. And Phase I was to repeal; Phase II was to replace, and Phase III was to let Tom Price, the secretary of Health and Human Services, once the mandates were gone, then start stripping out some of the Obamacare Essential Health Benefits. Because of the way the law’s written, the Health and Human Services secretary, we can’t cancel the Obama Essential Health Benefits, the third mandate.

The mandates have to be statutorily removed before that could — But that was the pan. And the objection to that plan always, “Well, why just repeal the whole thing? If you’re going to leave in the provisions empowering the secretary of Health and Human Services to either add to or subtract from, there’s gonna be a Democrat president someday who’s gonna be able to put all this garbage back in there. Why not just repeal this and get rid of it?” Which remained and still remains the argument.

The reason they can’t start doing that now is because the mandates are still in place. It’s a statutory thing. It may sound hard to understand. But you can’t start removing the Obama EHBs, community rating, all that stuff, until the mandates are gone, both the employer and personal. And since we haven’t repealed anything, we can’t do it.

All that’s gonna happen now is that whatever death spiral that Obamacare is in is going to continue. Premiums are gonna continue to rise. Insurance companies are gonna continue to abandon exchanges. Some exchanges are going to fall by the wayside. But there remain a number of states who got all kinds of new Medicaid money in the Medicaid expansion, and they don’t want to give that money up, and they were lobbying members of the Senate to not repeal Obamacare ’cause they didn’t want to lose all this new federal money they were getting to help people in their states with Medicaid coverage, treatment and so forth.

It’s a classic illustration of the intricately woven web that results when leftists in Washington, who are the total authors of this — there’s not a single Republican fingerprint on Obamacare. Despite their recent votes not to repeal it, there’s not a single Republican vote for it. So this mess is entirely the creation of a utopian — actually, a fantasy, utopian bunch of people, the American left and the Democrat Party, thinking they were creating affordable health care for all Americans.

When in fact what they really knew they were doing was creating something that was going to implode, which would lead to people clamoring and demanding that the federal government take it over to fix it. Which is where we’re headed, because it’s not designed to survive, and it’s in the middle of imploding. Trump said, “Let it implode. Just let it go down the tubes. The Democrats are gonna own it.” That’s his hope.

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