SHERIDAN — Wyoming Sen. Mike Enzi denies ownership of last week’s ruling by the Office of Personnel Management that provides tax-free subsidies for members of Congress and their staffers to buy health coverage via exchanges when the Affordable Care Act, dubbed “Obamacare,” goes into effect next year.
Enzi came under fire earlier this week from Liz Cheney, who has announced she will challenge Enzi for his Senate seat next year.
“I worked really hard to get Congress under Obamacare,” Enzi told The Sheridan Press. “Whatever the rest of the country needs to do, we need to do, and that mostly deals with exchanges.
“A number of us did a lot of lobbying and explained that no matter how (Obamacare) comes out, we ought to be subject to it, and consequently, when it went to the floor, it was passed unanimously,” he added.
Enzi said once Congress was made subject to the same health care reform citizens would ultimately endure, the work climate became one where all had a vested interest.
“When we go to a hearing now, both the Democrats and Republicans are beating up on the agency that’s supposed to do national exchanges so they get it right and it will work for the American people,” he said.
However, the week before work sessions were scheduled to end, Enzi said things changed.
“The Democrats met with the president the week before we left and explained how devastating that was going to be to them and their staff. Consequently, while we’ve been gone, the president has had his administration make an exemption for them,” Enzi said.
The result is a tax-free federal subsidy for Congress and its staff to the tune of $5,000 for individuals and $11,000 for family plans bought in the national health care exchange.
“I know (Cheney) said I should forego that, and I have no problem with that. But, what I have to do is get everybody under it,” Enzi said. “One or two people who agree with it isn’t going to make a difference. We need to have all of Congress under it. In fact, we need to have all of the administration under it.”
“This isn’t about calling out one or two senators,” he added.
Enzi said another stumbling block of the Affordable Care Act is no guidelines have been released regarding what kind of coverage individual citizens are required to buy. Because no regulations are set in place, he believes a promised pilot program is nonexistent.
Enzi also recently announced he does not feel the state of Wyoming should create its own optional health care exchange because the state’s population is too sparse to make the market work. Ultimately, the decision whether or not to create a state exchange rests on Governor Matt Mead.
Enzi is touring the state this week conducting listening sessions. He was set to be in Buffalo today from 10-11 a.m.