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Monday, January 6, 2014

 2:05 PM 

Johnson unveils lawsuit over Affordable Care Act subsidies

U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson today announced a federal lawsuit over health insurance subsidies for congressional staffers under Obamacare, calling it "a basic issue of fairness."

"It's extremely important that members of Congress have the exact same experience as the other millions of Americans that are experiencing, to their detriment, the health care law," Johnson, R-Oshkosh, said during a press conference in the U.S. Capitol. "It's one of the ways it'll force action."

The complaint, filed by the Milwaukee-based Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty against the Office of Personnel Management, alleges the agency's determination that staffers could continue to receive subsidies for insurance coverage through the Affordable Care Act's exchanges violates the health care law.

"OPM has promulgated a rule in which it has decreed that the federal government, an entity with almost 3 million civilian employees, is actually a small employer for purposes of participation in the small business exchanges," WILL President Rick Esenberg said during the press conference.

The lawsuit was filed in the Green Bay office of the Eastern District of Wisconsin federal court, with the senator arguing he has standing to pursue the case and "the obligation to make this point, to overturn this rule." Johnson said he consulted the Senate Ethics Committee about the lawsuit and that he is allowed to fund the lawsuit through personal funds, his campaign account or a combination of the two.

"This doesn't just affect everybody in the country; this is not an abstract concern," said former U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement, a Wisconsin native who's serving as an adviser on the case. "This is a provision that specifically affects how Senator Johnson and his office get their health care."

In addition, Johnson rejected arguments -- including those from U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Menomonee Falls -- that he said "dispute" claims that congressional staffers are receiving "special treatment" under the rule.

"Only members of Congress and their staff, when they lose their employer-sponsored care, will have the ability to have their employers make a tax-advantaged contribution to the health care plan," Johnson said. "That's the special treatment. That's completely unfair, completely unjust."


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