A D.C. Superior Court judge dismissed a lawsuit challenging congressional health care enrollment in the D.C. small business exchange Wednesday, ruling that federal regulations allow members of Congress and their staffs to enroll in the exchange.
In October, the group Judicial Watch filed a lawsuit on behalf of D.C. resident Kirby Vining, alleging that allowing Congress to enroll in the small business exchange violated D.C. law, which stipulates that a small business has 50 or fewer employees. The D.C. government acknowledged Congress is not a small business under D.C. law as part of a motion to the dismiss the case in January. But the D.C. government also argued a 2013 Office of Personnel Management ruling instructing congressional employees to enroll in the exchange trumped D.C. law, and enrollment could continue. D.C. Superior Court Judge Herbert B. Dixon Jr. sided with the D.C. government, granting the motion to dismiss the case. "The defendant exchange authority’s action in allowing members of Congress and their staff to participate in the District’s small business health options program is authorized by federal regulations,” Dixon wrote in his ruling.
D.C. Health Benefit Exchange Authority Executive Director Mila Kofman, one of the defendants in the case, said in a statement Thursday that she was pleased Congress could continue to enroll in the small business exchange.
“All our customers are important to us," she said. "We are pleased that we can continue to have Congress as one of our customers." As of Jan. 11, according to the authority, 13,711 members of Congress, their staff, spouses and dependents were enrolled, comprising nearly 90 percent of those in the small business exchange.
Judicial Watch did not respond to a request for comment Thursday evening, but the court docket shows Vining filed a notice of appeal Wednesday.
District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine's office said in a statement Thursday that the ruling was also a "dismissal with prejudice," meaning that Vining will not be allowed to bring the suit in Superior Court again, unless the ruling is reversed in the appeals process.
“With this decision, Members of Congress and their staff will be able to continue to purchase affordable health insurance through the District’s Health Benefit Exchange Authority,” Racine said. “The Court issued a correct ruling under the law, and it is an appropriate decision that promotes the health and welfare of our community.”
The Judicial Watch lawsuit also sparked a Senate investigation into congressional health care enrollment led by Senate Small Business Chairman David Vitter, R-La. Vitter is also placing a hold on the nomination of Earl Gay to be OPM's deputy director until he receives answers about congressional enrollment in the D.C. exchange.
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