Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI), issued a subpoena to the Office of Personnel Management for their failure to comply with requests for information regarding making monetary contributions towards lawmakers’ health insurance.
He previously sent 2 letters to OPM asking for documentation showing how OPM managed to avoid a regulation under the Affordable Care Act. That regulation requires Members of Congress to purchase their health insurance through a federal and state exchange.
In 2013, OPM issued a regulation allowing lawmakers and their staff to buy health insurance offered by a District of Columbia Small Business Health Options Plan (SHOP) and receive an employer contribution from the federal government to do so. This was all despite the provision of the law.
In his August 2017 letter to Acting OPM Director Kathleen McGettigan, Johnson detailed how Section 1312 of the Affordable Care Act requires Members of Congress and their staff to purchase health insurance on a federal or state exchange. In March 2010, the amendment failed to pass in Congress. OPM then issued a regulation allowing Members of Congress to purchase health insurance on the SHOP exchange. However, the SHOP exchange is intended for employers with less than 50 employees, but Congress employs more than 16,000 people.
“OPM’s regulation had the effect of classifying Congress as a small business with less than 50 employees, permitting the federal government to provide an employer contribution to Members of Congress and staff towards the purchase of health insurance in an amount equal to the government’s contribution offered to federal employees in the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program. Without this classification, Members of Congress and their staff would be required to purchase health insurance on the individual exchange, where no employer contributions are permitted,” the letter said.
He said in a recent follow-up letter that OPM has not satisfactorily responded to his requests, thus forcing the subpoena.
“The American people have a right to know how and why OPM drafted a final regulation that allows Members of Congress and staff to continue to receive an employer contribution, paid by the taxpayer, without authorization in law. I regret that OPM’s lack of cooperation with the Committee’s oversight has required me to issue a subpoena,” Johnson wrote.
He gave OPM a deadline of January 5, 2018, to provide the new information. It’s unclear what the consequence would be if OPM fails to comply with the request.