Sen. David Vitter skips contribution on coverage

Sen. David Vitter announced Tuesday that he is forgoing his federal employer contribution to health insurance now that he has purchased a health plan in the health care exchange as a Louisiana resident.

Vitter, R-La., opted to follow the same route as Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., to refuse the employer contribution that is following members of Congress and their staffers onto the Affordable Care Act exchanges. Those opting to keep their contributions have to enroll in the Washington, D.C., health exchange and not their home states.

Vitter’s announcement came at the end of a day of back-and-forth criticisms between the offices of Vitter and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., over what Vitter calls the “Washington exemption from Obamacare.”

The Affordable Care Act requires members of Congress and their employees to obtain their insurance through the health care exchanges. The federal government ruled this year that the employer contributions will follow them onto the exchanges and that only congressional staffers deemed “official” have to go through the exchanges.

Vitter’s effort has led to Senate gridlock in recent weeks as he has fought for votes — and failed — to end the employer contributions altogether and to force members of Congress to reveal how many staffers are not being deemed “official.”

Reid has offered Vitter a single vote on his bill, but Vitter has refused to give up the option of pushing for additional votes on the topic.

Reid and others have criticized Vitter for using political gimmicks that would punish staffers by pushing de facto pay cuts onto them. Reid previously accused Vitter of playing politics to support his potential gubernatorial run.

Vitter said this month he plans to decide by the end of January whether he will run for governor in 2015.

Vitter said Tuesday that President Barack Obama stepped in with a “special rule” that is “completely illegal” to help members of Congress avoid subjecting themselves and their staffers to the “same experience of other Americans” who are experiencing the “pain” of “Obamacare.”

Vitter specifically called out Reid for not deeming all his staff “official” and he wrote Reid a letter asking him to explain all of his actions on the issue.

“We hope that Sen. Vitter enjoys the government-sponsored health care contribution he reportedly continues to receive even as he launches these pointless political attacks,” Reid spokesman Adam Jentleson said. “Sen. 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.”

Instead, Sen. 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.”

Vitter countered that Reid and Jentleson are incorrect.

“In fact, I enrolled in a health insurance plan on the Louisiana exchange and receive no subsidy of any kind for it,” Vitter responded.