By TODD RICHMOND
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A judge properly dismissed U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson’s lawsuit challenging federal rules requiring congressional members be offered heavily subsidized health insurance through exchanges, a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday.
The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals found that Johnson failed to show how the provisions harmed him so he does not have legal “standing,” or the right to sue.
Johnson, a Republican from Oshkosh, filed the lawsuit last year. His issues stem from language in President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul law saying that the only health care plans the federal government can offer to members of Congress and staffers must come through an exchange.
The U.S. Office of Personnel Management, an arm of Obama’s administration, published rules in 2013 stating that the only plans available to congressional members and staffers must be offered through small business exchanges. The government would still subsidize 75 percent their premiums, just as it did before the health care reform law went into effect.
Johnson argued that federal employees can’t legally use small business exchanges, which are designed for those with 50 or fewer full-time employees, because they work for a huge employer. He also maintained that receiving the subsidies hurts his credibility with his constituents by putting him in a privileged position above them.
U.S. District Judge William Griesbach dismissed the lawsuit in July, ruling that Johnson hadn’t suffered any injury.
A three-judge panel from the 7th Circuit agreed, saying Johnson could always seek insurance on his own and it couldn’t see how his reputation could be sullied by “being offered, against his will, a benefit that he then decided to refuse.” The panel said citing political damage as harm was too “hypothetical.”
Johnson issued a statement saying that for the second time the courts have denied him an opportunity to argue the merits of his case. He also accused Obama, a Democrat, of legislating by executive fiat. He said he and his lawyers will review the 7th Circuit decision before determining their next steps.
“With this decision today, another executive action by the administration will go unchallenged, all based on the legal technicality of standing,” he said. “We’ve lost a battle in court, but we will continue to move forward in our effort to return sanity, fairness and balance to government on behalf of the American people.”