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Judge tosses Wisconsin senator's health care suit

MILWAUKEE (AP) — A federal judge on Monday dismissed a U.S. senator's lawsuit challenging a requirement that congressional members and their staffs to obtain government-subsidized health insurance through small business exchanges, saying the senator had no grounds to sue. Sen. Ron Johnson, a Wisconsin Republican, filed the lawsuit in January after the Office of Personnel Management decided months earlier that lawmakers and their staffs should continue to receive health care benefits covering about 75 percent of their premium costs after leaving the health insurance program for federal workers. Johnson said the decision would make him decide which staff members qualified for subsidized insurance, potentially creating conflict in his office. He also said it forced him to participate in a program that he believed was illegal and that it could make voters view him negatively because his staff received benefits the general public did not. But U.S. District Judge William Griesbach said Johnson and a staff member who filed the lawsuit with him didn't have grounds to bring the suit. Johnson's belief that subsidies provided to lawmakers and their staffs are illegal isn't a strong enough reason to disqualify him from the rule put in place under the Affordable Care Act, Griesbach said. The judge also said Johnson failed to show voters would view him negatively if his staff received subsidized insurance. And, the judge said, Johnson could simply avoid the problem by failing to designate any employees as official congressional office staff, a classification that qualifies them for the benefit. Johnson faulted Griesbach for dismissing the lawsuit on "the legal technicality of standing" and not fully considering his arguments. "Americans increasingly — and correctly — believe that their government in Washington is out of control, out of touch and lawless," he said in a statement. "By its decision today, the court has chosen not to address the important constitutional issues at hand." Johnson's spokeswoman, Melinda Whitemarsh Schnell, said he was discussing the decision with lawyers and deciding whether to appeal. The White House did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment on behalf of the Office of Personnel Management.

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