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Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014

Ron Johnson vs. Health Care

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The most surprising thing to most state residents about Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson filing a lawsuit against Obamacare is that the Republican senator is doing anything at all.

For most Wisconsinites, Johnson in Washington has been a lot like the man who went to sea. He was never heard from again.

What made Johnson’s mysterious disappearance even more unexpected was that during his election campaign, when no one in Wisconsin really knew who this guy was, we couldn’t turn on our televisions without seeing him.

That’s because Johnson spent $9 million to blanket TV with warm and fuzzy commercials presenting a completely false image of the unknown candidate as a kindly, older businessman who knew how to create jobs.

It wasn’t until Johnson evaporated into Washington that voters discovered what sort of man Johnson really was.

Johnson consistently voted just like another wealthy, old skinflint—the late Ebenezer Scrooge. He opposed not only job creation, but also unemployment benefits for the jobless, expansion of health care to those without insurance and even food assistance for hungry families.

It’s not quite true we never heard from Johnson at all. After months turning into years when Johnson was missing and presumed dead, every once in a while he would suddenly burst onto the national news doing something embarrassing.

His last big moment was about a year ago when an exasperated Secretary of State Hillary Clinton angrily dressed down Johnson publicly after he repeatedly interrupted her Senate testimony by accusing the administration of lying about a 2012 attack in Libya. That was the one where armed militants attacked the U.S. consulate in Benghazi and killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans.

The politicizing of Benghazi by Johnson and other Republicans was particularly sleazy.

When America was attacked on Sept. 11, 2001, the entire country stood together, regardless of party, behind Republican George W. Bush, a president who hadn’t even gotten a majority of the popular vote.

When America was attacked in Libya on Sept. 11, 2012, Republicans shamefully tried to use it politically to smear Democratic President Barack Obama, who was running for re-election.

 

Attacking Standard Benefits

The tasteless tactic fell flat with voters, but Johnson still uses it to rile up hatred of Obama among his tea party supporters. In fact, Johnson’s political specialty seems to be beating dead horses.

There’s a bumper sticker around that says: “Democrats Protest Wars. Republicans Protest Health Care.”

Johnson’s lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act is just another protest from a Republican who’s repeatedly attempted to sabotage expanding health care to Americans previously denied coverage because of soaring costs or pre-existing conditions.

Johnson’s lawsuit isn’t just based on a tortured interpretation of the law. It’s based on a lie.

The lawsuit focuses on a provision inserted into the Affordable Care Act to force members of the House and Senate and their staffs to go through the health care exchanges set up under the law to purchase their insurance.

Johnson and other Republicans who oppose Obamacare claim the provision imposes on Congress and its employees the same requirements they are imposing on the rest of America.

Except that’s not true. The overwhelming majority of Americans are not required to buy their health insurance through state or federal exchanges. The overwhelming majority of Americans still get their health insurance through their employers.

The exchanges are set up to serve those who do not have employers providing health insurance.

Now here is where Johnson’s lawsuit gets really ugly. Not only do most Americans get their health insurance through their employers, but a common employment benefit is for those employers to pay 70% to 80% of the full cost of employee health insurance.

Johnson’s upset the government personnel office ruled the law would not prevent the federal government from continuing to pay the same 72% to 75% employer contribution to Congress and its staff that the government pays for all other federal employees.

Johnson’s lawsuit seeks to end that employment benefit for members of Congress and their staffs. He claims the federal benefit is unconstitutional because no one else who buys insurance through the exchanges receives it.  

But then, of course, Congress and its employees also are the only workers with employer-provided health insurance who are still required to purchase it through the exchanges.

Johnson is angry Congress and the Supreme Court approved Obamacare over his objections and now he wants to punish everybody he can in Washington for it.

It was too much even for conservative Republican Wisconsin Congressman F. James Sensenbrenner, a staunch opponent of Obamacare, who attacked Johnson’s lawsuit as a petty political stunt.

“The employer contribution he’s attacking is nothing more than a standard benefit that most private and all federal employees receive,” Sensenbrenner said.

Many of us in Wisconsin can hardly wait for Johnson to become invisible again and disappear from Washington forever.

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