Among the most offensive features of the ironically titled “Affordable Care Act” is its designation of the Internal Revenue Service as the main enforcer of the law’s many mandates, taxes, penalties, and reporting requirements. It exponentially increases the power of a group of bureaucrats notorious for repeatedly abusing their authority. Now, highlighting the growing gulf between the government and the governed that has become the hallmark of the Obama era, these IRS enforcers are asking their congressional representatives to spare them the indignity of enrolling in Obamacare’s insurance exchanges.
The National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU), whose members include most IRS employees, has launched a letter-writing campaign whose goal is to prevent Congress from passing legislation that would require all federal employees to enroll in the exchanges. And the NTEU is not only encouraging its members to write to their representatives expressing deep concern that they might be treated like mere private sector serfs, it is relieving them of the intellectual pressure of composing their own missives to Congress. Its website provides a fill-in-the-blank template with which to express their angst.
The form letter, provided in an NTEU action alert urging members to contact their representatives, begins as follows: “I am a federal employee and one of your constituents. I am very concerned about legislation that has been introduced by Congressman Dave Camp to push federal employees out of the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) and into the insurance exchanges established under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).” The NTEU site also gives IRS employees the choice of hectoring their congressmen and Senators via email, the default option, or by the more traditional printed letter.
The worrisome “legislation that has been introduced by Congressman Dave Camp,” the Republican Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, is HR 1780. This bill was introduced last April when it was reported that congressional leaders were “engaged in high-level, confidential talks about exempting lawmakers and Capitol Hill aides from the insurance exchanges.” These talks were allegedly prompted by fears that “requiring lawmakers and staffers to join the exchanges … could lead to a ‘brain drain’ on Capitol Hill.” As hilarious as this may seem to most of us, Chairman Camp was not amused.
Thus, he introduced the legislation that has the NTEU so worried. HR 1780 would “restrict the health plans that the federal government may make available to the President, Vice-President, or federal employees to a health plan either created under [Obamacare] or offered through a health care exchange established under [Obamacare].” And, unless you’re a Beltway bureaucrat, it’s hard to argue with the bill’s logic as Camp explained it, “If the ObamaCare exchanges are good enough for the hardworking Americans… then they should be good enough for the president, vice president, Congress, and federal employees.”
But, according to the NTEU, the exchanges are most emphatically not good enough for the enforcers of Obamacare’s noxious provisions. They are not good enough for the people who will peruse your W-2 form to make sure the health coverage premiums paid by you and your employer have been properly reported according to the stipulations of the “reform” law. They are not good enough for auditors from whom you will receive a peremptory summons to explain why some facet of your tax return doesn’t conform to the latest Beltway scheme to redistribute your hard-earned wages to reliable Democrat voters.
The NTEU form letter suggests that HR 1780 “would put federal employees in a special class” that would deprive them of a perk, the ability to get insurance through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP), without which they will be disadvantaged compared to other American workers. But they are, of course, already in a special class -- and it isn’t one that suffers much from benefit deprivation. As Bryan Caplan pointed out last April, after digging through mounds of data from the Congressional Budget Office, the fringe benefits enjoyed by federal workers exceed those of the private sector by 46 percent.
Still, one can hardly blame these bureaucrats for wanting to retain such generous benefits. And no one with a modicum of sense wants to participate in Obamacare if he can avoid it. However, despite countless assurances to the contrary from the prevaricator-in-chief, the “Affordable Care Act” has already deprived many Americans of coverage with which they also were satisfied. And it will continue to do so. So, why should IRS employees receive a special dispensation? It isn’t as though these people have been paragons of selfless public service. Or must we simply accept that they are part of a privileged ruling class?
Ironically, there is a way out of this mess if our “leaders” would only take it. All Congress has to do is pass HR 2700, a bill introduced by Michigan Rep. Mike Rogers, that would give Obamacare waivers to all Americans and employers. This would allow IRS employees to stay with FEHBP, save them a lot of unpleasant work, and end America’s long health care nightmare. Sadly, as long as the Democrats control the Senate and the White House, HR 2700 hasn’t a prayer. We will, for the time being, have to live with Obamacare and congressional staffers will have to transfer a lot of emails to their trash folders.