In shutdown drama, debunked Obamacare ‘carve out’ story again shuffles onto stage

On Monday, Colorado Republican U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn made his case for the government shutdown standoff in Washington by citing temporary funding bills passed in the House that have included provisions that defund Obamacare but that also would subject all members of Congress to the same “onerous” provisions of the bill as the rest of the country.

Lamborn’s note to constituents on the matter repeats a line of argument that has been debunked for months but that nevertheless has been promoted in the conservative mediasphere and is now on some level helping to fuel the government shutdown.

“This funding bill will keep the government operating, while protecting every American from the onerous individual ObamaCare mandate,” Lamborn wrote on Monday as the shutdown loomed. “It also ensures that members of Congress and their staffs and other well connected political insiders don’t get any special subsidies or carve outs from ObamaCare. It’s a fundamental issue of fairness.”

House Republicans like Lamborn hold up the alleged Congressional “carve outs” as evidence that insiders recognize Obamacare as onerous.

They are the same carve outs House Speaker John Boehner is alleged to have quietly worked with Democratic lawmakers to preserve and for which he is now drawing attacks on the left and right.

You won’t have learned much about the Obamacare Congressional carve outs unless you rely on conservative media for news. And if you learned about them for the conservative mediasphere, you will have been played.

Politico ginned up the story. There is no special carve out that demonstrates members of Congress are looking to wriggle out of Obamacare.

As Erik Wemple at the Washington Post explains in a tick-tock re-debunking piece published Tuesday, no employer the size of the government has to offer health plans through the Obamacare exchanges except the government, and that’s because Chuck Grassley wrote a badly crafted section of the Obamacare bill that forces lawmakers into the exchanges. The fact is, politically motivated provision forced law writers and regulators to make a special “carve in” for lawmakers. The “carve out” tries to untangle the knotted mess.

The long, sad, pretend carve out story (spread from Politico via “5,647 tweets, 105,000 Facebook likes, and an untold number of followup blog posts from conservative news sites”) was first debunked in the mainstream media by Ezra Klein on April 25 at the Washington Post Wonkblog. Yet it is still part of the noise fueling the governemtn shutdown that has already upended the work lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans, some of them in Colorado on furlough today busy dragging flood-soaked furniture and dry wall from their homes.

[ Image of Rep. Doug Lamborn by Navajo Nation Washington ]


  1. Members of Congress are proud of the fact that they treat their employees like dirt. Most congressional staffers are in their 20s and earn less than $30,000 per year. Terminating their government-provided health insurance, their only benefit, and requiring them to buy insurance on an exchange would qualify most of them for government subsidies.

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