- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana took the Senate’s top Democrat to task on Tuesday, saying Majority Leader Harry Reid should disclose how he decided which of his staff should get their health insurance from the Obamacare exchanges.

Mr. Vitter, a Republican, has made it his mission to force lawmakers to disclose how they label each of their staff members, since those deemed “official” must enroll through the D.C. small-business exchange because of a unique provision in the Affordable Care Act.

The law requires Capitol Hill lawmakers and their personal staff to forfeit their government-sponsored health care plans and enroll in state-based insurance exchanges. The goal was to make lawmakers experience what many Americans face in the individual marketplace.

Mr. Vitter is angry that Mr. Reid, Nevada Democrat, used a permissible reading of the provision to exempt some leadership staff from the exchanges, even though Congress’ three other most-senior leaders decided to put their entire staffs into the Obamacare markets.

“The law says personal office staff should be in the exchanges and leadership staff should not, and that is what we are doing,” Reid spokesman Adam Jentleson said.

But Mr. Vitter called out Mr. Reid in a floor speech on Tuesday afternoon and reissued his call for every lawmaker to be transparent about which staff members get an exemption.

Mr. Vitter has introduced the “Show Your Exemption Act” to make sure lawmakers disclose which staffers will take part in Obamacare.

“I think this is an important debate that the American people care about,” he said Tuesday.

Mr. Jentleson hit back at Mr. Vitter shortly after the speech.

“We hope that Senator Vitter enjoys the government-sponsored health care contribution he reportedly continues to receive even as he launches these pointless political attacks,” he said, referring an Obama administration rule that allowed lawmakers and staff to a retain an employer-based subsidy that helps them pay for their premiums.

The assertion from Mr. Reid’s office was based on a Washington Post report about how various lawmakers are approaching the Obamacare provision.

Senator Reid continues to stand ready to work with any Republican who wants to work together to fix issues with the Affordable Care Act as they arise,” Mr. Jentleson added. “Instead, Senator Vitter and his fellow Republicans appear dead set on going back to the days when insurance companies could deny Americans coverage based on pre-existing conditions.”

Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican who authored the amendment during the health care debate, has said the original intent of his provision was distorted during the final drafting of the Obamacare statute, leading to various exemptions for leadership staff and others.

In October, he said he would be placing his personal staff in the exchanges and keeping his committee staff in the federal benefits health care plan.