Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), who announced his run for president on Monday, had a mixed bag of second-day campaigning. On the one hand, he raised $1 million. On the other hand, the right’s champion of “no compromise” assault on Obamacare and much of the rest of the federal government admitted that, yes, he would be going on Obamacare.
With Cruz’s wife, Heidi, stepping away temporarily from her job at Goldman Sachs, the Cruz family has to get its insurance somewhere, and the Texas senator has decided that “somewhere” is HealthCare.gov. Thanks to a Republican amendment to the law, the federal government can only offer members of Congress and their staffs insurance that requires going through Obamacare exchanges. Cruz will, however, reject the 75 percent employer contribution that the federal government decided to continue offering to all members and their staffs.
Liberals quickly lobbed accusations of hypocrisy. Conservatives argued back that Cruz is just following the law, like a man who pays income tax even though he believes it is unconstitutional or who follows gun control laws that he doesn’t support.
But this isn’t a case of following the law or not. The law does not require Cruz to get health insurance on the exchanges. Instead of going through the exchanges, he could have paid the tax penalty for not having insurance, “likely cheaper than buying an insurance plan,” but at the cost of being uninsured. Or his wife could have applied to COBRA and extended her benefits from Goldman Sachs for up to 18 months, though she would have to pay all of the premium. Or he could bypass the exchanges and buy insurance directly from a private insurer. Sure, he’d have to spend time navigating the market himself, but I’m sure the Princeton graduate can figure it out.
Each of these options would cost Cruz time, money or both. But several Republican representatives already have purchased insurance without going through the exchanges, so it is clearly possible. Yes, Cruz would have to purchase a plan that meets minimum standards established under Obamacare, but anyone who thinks that someone with his resources would otherwise buy a plan with excessive co-pays or skimpy coverage is fooling themselves. And Cruz is rejecting the government’s employer contribution, even though he is entitled to it as a member of Congress. That is thousands of dollars a year, and accepting it would still be following the law. So Cruz clearly has already made the decision to spend lots of money to make a symbolic stand. Why not follow through on that and avoid the Obamacare exchanges?
Cruz is not just anyone. He wants us to vote for him for president. He has consistently demanded that his Republican colleagues never compromise. He not only thinks that Obamacare, which he says puts the government “between you and your doctor,” is a bad policy; he thinks that it is such an existential threat to the United States and its health-care system that it was worth shutting down the government in an attempt to undermine the law. But suddenly the law and the health system it created is not scary enough for his family? If Cruz really wants to run as the candidate of righteous convictions, he’ll have to do a better job of following his own.