Tea party champion and U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp of Kansas is one of the leading Republican haters of Obamacare, having fruitlessly voted many times in Congress to repeal it.
Huelskamp also has just announced that he and his family are enrolled in the federal Affordable Care Act.
That makes Huelskamp look like a hypocrite.
Then again, it also makes the Kansas congressman look financially savvy because members of Congress as federal employees are eligible for thousands of dollars in taxpayer subsidies a year to sign up for health care coverage.
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Hmmm. Wasn’t that exactly one of the positive points of President Barack Obama’s signature legislative accomplishment — to help people find good health care coverage if they needed it and at relatively affordable prices?
Huelskamp joins Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, another constant Republican critic of Obamacare, in the circles of politicians whose credibility on the topic has taken a hit since they also participate in the program.
And here’s the key point: They don’t have to.
They could refuse to take part in the federal exchange offered through the Affordable Care Act and then seek coverage in the private insurance market.
But remember, members of Congress do not receive the public subsidy they get through the federal exchange to pay premiums if they resort to the private sector.
Huelskamp did not acknowledge that in a written statement this week to the media. Instead, he said the law forces members of Congress to sign up, adding “we object to this expensive, liberty-attacking mandate.”
But there’s more to the story. From the McClatchy article on Huelskamp:
“Rep. Louis Gohmert, R-Texas, decided to go without health insurance rather than sign up for Obamacare. Some other lawmakers have said they would go through the private market to avoid the exchanges, including Rep. Frank LoBiondo of New Jersey and Rep. Diane Black of Tennessee, both Republicans. But purchasing insurance on the private market would mean Huelskamp, a married father of four children, would have to forgo the employer contribution that the government offers to offset the cost of members’ premiums. That contribution could be worth nearly $1,000 per month for members with families, according to the Congressional Research Office.”
If Huelskamp really wants to stand on principle, here’s an idea: He could refuse to enroll in Obamacare in the future, whether that nicks him in the wallet or not.
Of course, he also can relentlessly keep voting to repeal the Affordable Care Act for the next two years without any real hope of achieving that goal.