Politics

Ted Cruz Wants You To Believe He’s Legally Required To Sign Up For Obamacare. He’s Not.

CREDIT: AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

Newly-minted presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) admitted that he would grudgingly sign up for health care coverage through the Affordable Care Act on Tuesday, just one day after announcing that he intends to repeal “every word of Obamacare” if elected president.

Cruz framed the decision as one of inevitability. After all, a provision of the law requires members of Congress and some of their staff to purchase coverage through the law’s marketplace in DC and since his wife and current coverage provider is giving up her employer-sponsored plan to work on his presidential campaign, the family needed to enroll in a new policy.

“We’ll be getting new health insurance and we’ll presumably do it through my job with the Senate, and so we’ll be on the federal exchange with millions of others on the federal exchange,” Cruz told CNN’s Dana Bash, adding that he would not accept the health care law’s subsidy.

“I believe we should follow the text of every law, even laws I disagree with,” Cruz said. “It’s one of the real differences — if you look at President Obama and the lawlessness, if he disagrees with a law he simply refuses to follow it or claims the authority to unilaterally change.”

Cruz should consider the law more closely.

The Affordable Care Act does not compel members of Congress to enroll in DC’s health care exchange; it simply cuts off the government contribution to their insurance plans if they buy their policies elsewhere. “The final rule extends a Government contribution towards health benefits plans for Members of Congress and designated congressional staff so long as the health benefits plans are purchased via the appropriate SHOP as determined by the Director,” a summary of the final rule says. “Nothing in the final rule or the law prevents a Member of Congress or designated congressional staff from declining a Government contribution for him or herself by choosing a different option for their health insurance coverage.”

In other words, Cruz “could purchase coverage in the outside market but would get no subsidy from the FEHBP program,” Tim Jost clarified for ThinkProgress, referring to the acronym for the federal health care program. “It seems like the primary other option he would have is to take advantage of COBRA through his wife, though he’d be forgoing the employer contribution. He could also buy non-group coverage,” Larry Levitt, Senior Vice President at the Kaiser Family Foundation, said. Cruz could also potentially purchased insurance through his presidential campaign’s presumptive health care insurance. In those instances, however, he would have had to give up his employer’s contribution and likely pay more for insurance than he is now being charged under Obamacare.

Despite initially telling CNN’s Dana Bash that Cruz didn’t pursue other alternatives because “Obamacare has wiped out the individual market, leaving Cruz with few options,” his staff is now explaining to reporters that Cruz might skip the DC exchange and sign up for coverage in Texas, through that state’s federal exchange. “As it happens, Cruz appears likely to forego the 75 percent employer contribution he could get as a member of Congress and instead access Obamacare from Texas, which doesn’t have a state exchange,” The Daily Caller reports, adding, “That means Cruz would use HealthCare.gov to get health insurance, at the same time the Supreme Court is considering ruling taxpayer [subsidies] for federal exchange customers illegal.”

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