Hank  Adler
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Nancy Pelosi made her most famous (infamous) quote immediately before Congress voted on Obamacare:

You’ve heard about the controversies within the bill, the process about the bill, one or the other. But I don’t know if you have heard that it is legislation for the future, not just about health care for America, but about a healthier America, where preventive care is not something that you have to pay a deductible for or out of pocket. Prevention, prevention, prevention—it’s about diet, not diabetes. It’s going to be very, very exciting.

But we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it, away from the fog of the controversy.

Within the past few weeks, the President orchestrated an arrangement with Treasury wherein Congress and its employees will now be permitted to have a subsidy (paid for by the taxpayers) for the purchase of their healthcare on the Obamacare exchanges. This has been explained as placing the Members of Congress and their employees in the same financial position with respect to their healthcare costs as they were before Obamacare. This explanation is generally accurate.

The irony of the necessity of Congress needing a backdoor correction (done by presidential action, not through Congressional action) to legislation passed by this same Congress should not be lost. This backdoor correction was required with respect to their own law.

The underlying and serious questions about the revised arrangement for Congress are far deeper than whether Congress needs to be financially protected from Obamacare or whether the change made to their program is a reasonable one. These deeper questions revolve around whether Congress is a responsible body. Is Congress focusing on the reason they were elected to office, namely governing?

Are individual Members of Congress spending sufficient amounts of time legislating (which we will define as studying, considering and understanding the legislative proposals presented to them?) Does the evidence support the argument that Congress was insufficiently informed or knowledgeable when the final Obamacare votes were taken?

Arguably, Obamacare is the most meaningful and historic legislation passed since social security. Yet, since its passage only three years ago, the President has unilaterally and perhaps without legal authority deferred the employer mandate, the Department of Health and Human Services has issued many hundreds of exemptions without any specific guidelines and perhaps without legal authority, and the initial state of the required individual mandate sign up process could only be called shambolic.

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Hank Adler

Hank Adler is an Assistant Professor at Chapman University.

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