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Our Opinion: Congress’ exception to Obamacare rules must come to an end

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When it comes to soaring health care costs, U.S. senators aren’t feeling your pain.

They don’t mind dallying, dithering and dragging their feet. Unlike millions of Americans, they don’t have much to lose if the status quo remains in place.

That’s because members of Congress receive a government subsidy that pays roughly three-quarters of their Affordable Care Act premiums.

An Office of Personnel Management administrative decision in 2013 allowed Congress to classify itself as a small business. That lets representatives and senators buy health plans from Washington’s Small Business Options Program and, in turn, allows the government to heavily subsidize their premiums.

Without the SHOP exchange, members of Congress and their staffers would be required to buy plans from the Obamacare marketplaces for individuals, where employer contributions are not accepted.

Increasingly frustrated with senators’ stall tactics, President Donald Trump is threatening to pull the perk.

“If ObamaCare is hurting people, & it is, why shouldn’t it hurt the insurance companies & why should Congress not be paying what public pays?” Trump tweeted on Monday.

Conservative groups calling for market-driven health care reform are echoing the president’s call to remove the congressional carve-out, which may ratchet up the pressure for senators to act.

“It is apparent that since Members of Congress, their families and staff do not have to live under the law they passed for every other American, they lack the incentive to take the action they were elected to take,” Jenny Beth Martin of the Tea Party Patriots said in a statement.

The U.S. spends more than 60 cents out of every tax dollar on entitlements and more than 20 cents on the military. As economist Paul Krugman points out, our nation is basically an insurance company with an army.

Many liberals and moderates fear an Obamacare repeal will make health care unaffordable for millions of Americans. They raise concerns that must be dealt with, as the United States needs a health policy that works for all its citizens. But we can’t continue down the debt-ridden road we’re on.

Reform must come from somewhere, and right now, voters have entrusted Republicans with the task.

We don’t have all the answers, but our state and nation elected a whole batch of clean-cut men and women in sharp suits who told us they were smart enough to puzzle out a solution. We see more finger-pointing than problem-solving on Capitol Hill these days.

Trump was right to issue his ultimatum. Until Obamacare is either repaired or repealed, members of Congress should be required to purchase insurance on the individual marketplace. That would put them in the same boat with their constituents — and that’s where lawmakers always belong.

Congress is supposed to be a citizen legislature. We elect representatives, not rulers.

Never trust a chef who won’t eat his own food or a rulemaker who insists on being the exception to the rule.

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