Ted Cruz really, truly hates Obamacare — and also might be the law's newest enrollee.
Cruz previously had a health plan through his wife Heidi's job at Goldman Sachs. But the family will lose that coverage when Heidi takes a leave of absence to campaign full-time. And this will put the Cruz family into a situation familiar to millions of Americans: figuring out what to do when you can no longer get coverage through work.
And, like 11.7 million other Americans before him, Cruz appears to have settled on the Obamacare exchanges as his answer.
"We will presumably go on the exchange and sign up for health care, and we're in the process of transitioning over to do that," Cruz told the Des Moines Register Tuesday.
Why a leading anti-Obamacare critic would sign up for Obamacare
Cruz's comments led to cries of hypocrisy: how can a senator who has stridently opposed Obamacare — who once filibustered for 21 hours straight on the issue — decide to sign up for coverage?
And Cruz actually has a pretty decent answer: the law is the law, and he is subject to the mandate to buy insurance, regardless of his own personal beliefs. "I believe we should follow the text of every law, even [a] law I disagree with," Cruz told CNN.
Or as National Journal's Sam Baker put it, "Ted Cruz probably pays his taxes, even though he wants to abolish the IRS."
Like many Americans, Ted Cruz just doesn't have other options that are as good
Beyond his desire to obey the law, if Cruz surveyed the market for individual insurance, he'd probably learn pretty quickly that the exchange is almost certainly his best option.
He could sign up for coverage through COBRA, the law that requires employers to offer their employees health insurance for 18 months after they quit. If Cruz is the very optimistic type, he will need coverage for 20 months — from now until the election next November. So his coverage could, theoretically leave him short.
The other problem with COBRA: it's expensive. Typically, the employer and the employee split the price of an insurance premium. But former employees on COBRA pay the entire cost.
Cruz could buy individual market coverage without using the exchange, although that shopping experience can be messy. Outside of the exchange, there's no central repository of health insurance plans that lets you explore different options. While Healthcare.gov did indeed have a disastrous launch, the website now is actually pretty good for comparing different plans.
Then there's the option of not buying coverage at all and paying a fine. This year, the Cruz family would pay either a $1,300 penalty for 2015 ($325 each for Cruz, his wife, and his two daughters) or 2 percent of their income, whichever is greater. That's likely cheaper than buying an insurance plan but also comes with the massive downside of remaining uninsured.
Finally, we come to the health insurance exchanges. If members of Congress want to get coverage through their job, Obamacare requires them to go to the marketplaces rather than the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program. Members of Congress can get subsidies here for their health insurance, although Cruz has indicated he won't accept it.
"I strongly oppose the exemption that President Obama illegally put in place for members of Congress because (Senate Minority Leader) Harry Reid and the Senate Democrats didn't want to be under the same rules as the American people," Cruz told CNN.
Correction: This post initially stated the length of COBRA insurance. It is 18 months.