JW Files Taxpayer Lawsuit to Stop Congress from Participating in D.C.’s Small Business Exchange
OCTOBER 15, 2014
Documents Show Congress Submitted False Information to Participate in Exchange
Though restricted by law to small businesses with 50 or fewer employees, D.C. Exchange allows Congress to provide health insurance to 12,359 members of Congress, staffers, spouses, and dependents
(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch today filed a taxpayer lawsuit against the District of Columbia Health Benefit Exchange Authority to stop Congress from participating in D.C.’s “Small Business Exchange.” At least 12,359 members of Congress, congressional staffers, and their spouses and dependents currently purchase health insurance in D.C.’s “Small Business Exchange” even though Congress far exceeds D.C. law’s 50-employee limit for participating in the exchange. The lawsuit, which also names the Exchange Authority and its Executive Director, Mila Kofman, as defendants, was filed in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia on behalf of D.C. taxpayer Kirby Vining (Kirby Vining v. Executive Board of the District of Columbia Health Benefit Exchange Authority (No. 14-0006496)).
Judicial Watch’s lawsuit cites applications filed by the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate with the D.C. Exchange Authority. The applications, which were obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, show the House and Senate claimed to have only 45 employees each. They also show that the House and Senate attested to having “50 or fewer full-time equivalent employees.” Congress employs upwards of 20,000 people. D.C. law limits participation in the exchange to small businesses having fewer than 50 full-time employees. The applications also falsely state that the House and Senate are “local/state governments.” The “electronic signature” section of the application includes the following language:
I’ve provided true and correct information to all the questions on this form to the best of my knowledge. I know that if I’m not truthful, there may be a penalty.
The actual names of the signatories were blacked out by the D.C. Exchange.
In March 2012, the D.C. Council enacted “The Health Benefit Exchange Authority Establishment Act of 2011,” establishing an Individual Exchange and a Small Business Exchange. In Fiscal Year 2013 and 2014, the Council appropriated $77,055,000 in General Fund revenues – taxpayer dollars – to create, administer, and operate the Exchanges.
The Judicial Watch lawsuit charges that:
- “Since November 2013, the Exchange Authority has allowed the U.S. House of Representatives (“the House”) and the U.S. Senate (“the Senate”) (collectively “Congress”) to use the Small Business Exchange to provide health insurance to members of Congress, certain congressional staffers, and their spouses and dependents.”
- “Beginning in early November 2013, the Exchange Authority conducted outreach efforts to the House and Senate about Congress’ participation in the Small Business Exchange and provided weekly support sessions to assist members of Congress and staff with enrollment. These outreach efforts, weekly support sessions, and Congress’ participation in the Exchange generally were discussed at a November 13, 2013 meeting of the Executive Board, and on November 20, 2013, Executive Director Kofman testified [starting at 1:46:00] before the Senate’s Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee about Congress’ participation in the Small Business Exchange.”
- “When Congress applied to participate in the Small Business Exchange, representatives falsely asserted that the House and the Senate each employ 50 or fewer full-time employees. Specifically, records provided by the Exchange Authority in response to a Freedom of Information Act request show that both the House and the Senate falsely claimed that they each employ only 45 full-time employees.”
- “On information and belief, the Executive Board and Executive Director Kofman knew that the House and the Senate each have more than 50 full-time employees and knew or should have known that Congress’ certifications to the contrary were false.”
- “At least 12,359 members of Congress, congressional staffers, and their spouses and dependents obtained health insurance through the Small Business Exchange as of February 9, 2014. These 12,359 persons represent approximately 86 percent of the 14,289 persons enrolled in the Small Business Exchange between October 1, 2013 and September 9, 2014.”
Judicial Watch asks the court, on behalf of Mr. Vining, to: “(a) declare the House and the Senate’s participation in the Small Business Exchange to be unlawful; (b) enjoin Defendants from continuing to allow the House and the Senate to participate in the Small Business Exchange, or at a minimum, from expending further taxpayer funds on the House and Senate’s participation in the Small Business Exchange; (c) issue a writ of mandamus ordering Defendant Kofman to deny the House and the Senate further participation in the Small Business Exchange . . .”
“The documents we obtained from the D.C. Health Exchange show that every member of Congress who has enrolled in Obamacare has obtained their insurance coverage (and any taxpayer subsidies) through fraud. The District of Columbia government should not be a party to this fraud and should stop allowing Congress to participate in an exchange created for small D.C. businesses,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “District taxpayers will be surprised and outraged to learn that local tax dollars are helping further this fraud. Mr. Vining wants the courts to stop this lawlessness as soon as possible.”
Mr. Vining added, “The District government should obey its own legal mandate and stop allowing Congress to participate in an exchange created to help small D.C. businesses. I’m looking forward to having my day in court to hold the District government accountable to the law.”