- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 28, 2014

Sen. Tom Coburn wants to know whether the Obama administration violated the law by making it easier for seasonal and temporary workers in the federal government to get health coverage — perhaps so the feds would not be penalized under Obamacare’s “employer mandate.”

The Oklahoma Republican outlined his concerns Thursday in a letter to the Office of Personnel Management, which governs the federal employees’ benefits program.

He said a proposal issued in July would allow temporary employees to qualify for health benefits after 90 days, even though federal law requires such employees to work for a continuous year to become eligible.

He also said the government plans to make a full contribution to offset these employees’ health premiums, even though the law prohibits it.

The senator suspects OPM issued the rule to make sure the government is not penalized under the health care law’s new rule on employers.

Under the mandate, employers of 50 or more full-time workers — or an equivalent of part-time workers under a special formula — must provide adequate health coverage or pay a penalty.

“The proposed rule discusses at length how the federal government will be subject to the mandate’s penalty if any full-time worker receives a subsidy for health insurance through an exchange,” Mr. Coburn wrote in his letter to OPM Director Katherine Archuleta.

An OPM spokeswoman said the agency received the senator’s letter and is “currently reviewing his concerns.”

The Obama administration has delayed the controversial mandate twice, although it is set to phase in over the next two years.

This is not the first time the federal personnel office has come under fire for its rule-making under Obamacare.

Last year, the agency said lawmakers and certain staff members could keep employer-based contributions that pay for up to 75 percent of their health premiums, even though they must acquire health insurance on a state-based exchange because of a quirky provision in the Affordable Care Act.

Sen. David Vitter, Louisiana Republican, has led a crusade against the subsidies, arguing they give Washington insiders a special benefit that regular Obamacare customers will not see.

A second Republican senator, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, is appealing after a federal judge tossed his lawsuit over the OPM rule.