Today, U.S. Sen. David Vitter sent a letter to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) requesting them to release all correspondence they had with the Administration, Members of Congress and their staffs related to their final rule to "fix" Obamacare for Congress. It has been widely reported that OPM was in deliberations with Congress and officials in the White House, including the President, over the specifics of this rule.
"This "fix' was one of many delayed regulations, which leads me to believe that there was much debate between the White House and Congress over OPM's authority to bend the rules and help Members and congressional staff to ultimately retain their very generous taxpayer funded subsidies," Vitter wrote. "Self-dealing special treatment to avoid the consequences of a law that Congress itself passed is precisely why the American people do not trust Washington."
Vitter has been pushing legislation, which hVitter to OPM:as been dubbed the "Vitter Amendment" that would reverse and clarify the decision by OPM on Obamacare. The legislation will require that all Members of Congress, the President, Vice President, and all political appointees in the Administration must purchase their health insurance through the Obamacare Exchange without the help of taxpayer-funded subsidies. Congressional staff would be prohibited from receiving any contribution greater than what they would receive if they were not employed by a congressional office.
The text of Vitter's letter requesting OPM to turn over all correspondence with the Administration, Members of Congress and their staff is below.
October 9, 2013
The Honorable Elaine Kaplan
Office of Personnel Management
1900 E St NW
Washington, DC 20415
Dear Acting Director Kaplan:
I write seeking more information regarding the Office of Personnel Management's (OPM's) final rule to "fix" Obamacare for Members of Congress and their staffs but not for the American people. While I continue to argue that this "fix" is both unfair and illegal, I ask that you release all correspondence OPM officials had within the Administration and with Members of Congress and their staff regarding how the agency arrived at its position in the final rule, issued on September 30, 2013.
It has been widely reported that OPM was in deliberations with Congress and officials in the White House, including the President, over the specifics of this rule. This "fix" was one of many delayed regulations, which leads me to believe that there was much debate between the White House and Congress over OPM's authority to bend the rules and help Members and congressional staff to ultimately retain their very generous taxpayer funded subsidies. Objective legal experts who have looked at this regulation contend that OPM is not authorized to subsidize plans on the Exchange for which it is has not contracted or approved, and is only allowed to approve and contract with group plans that meet the rate and benefit requirements of the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program (FEHBP). Accordingly, should OPM subsidize plans selected from the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) Exchange, those plans will either violate the requirements of FEHBP or will violate the requirements under Obamacare.
Given that Open Enrollment started October 1st, and the deadline to choose a health plan by December 31st, beyond the initial request for correspondence I ask that you respond to the following questions and make available all information requested below by no later than October 18, 2013.
1. Prior to issuing the rule did anyone within OPM, advising on this particular matter, at any point argue that OPM did not have authority to determine that the FEHB contribution could be used towards purchasing a plan on an exchange or with a private insurance plan outside FEHB?
2. Please disclose all email correspondence including meetings OPM officials had with Members of Congress and/or any of their staff prior to issuing the proposed rule on August 2, 2013, and prior to issuing the final rule issued on September 30, 2013?
3. Please disclose all email correspondence including meetings that OPM officials have had with the White House, including the President, with regards to this ruling that allows Members and congressional staff to keep their generous taxpayer funded subsidy for health insurance?
4. Was there at any point disagreement between OPM, Members of Congress, White House, their respective staff with regards to OPM's authority to authorize FEHB subsidies for health plans on an Exchange?
OPM has a Constitutional responsibility to interpret the legislative language within the scope of the Obamacare statute. Self-dealing special treatment to avoid the consequences of law that Congress itself passed, is precisely why the American people do not trust Washington. The public has a right to know the answers to the questions listed above, and I look forward to your timely response.