EDITORIAL: The law applies to thee, but not to me

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid promised Americans that if they liked their existing health insurance, they could keep it. It’s a promise the Nevada Democrat intends to honor — for some of his staff.

For the millions of Americans who’ve lost their insurance as a result of Obamacare’s devastating rollout, for those who now must choose between buying costlier new health insurance or going without coverage and paying a penalty tax, Sen. Reid’s promise will remain broken. The public is none too pleased about that. A growing majority of residents disapprove of the Affordable Care Act, despite Sen. Reid’s assurances that the law has been good for the country.

No one is buying that, including some of Sen. Reid’s own staff — the very same staff which helped him force Obamacare through Congress in 2009 and upon a nation that didn’t want it, the very same staff which helps the senator defend and promote the law to this day.

Now that their creation is poised to erode benefits and explode their own household budgets, these staffers want nothing to do with it. The Affordable Care Act requires the official staffs of each federal lawmaker to abandon their medical coverage through the Federal Employee Health Benefit program and purchase subsidized insurance through the law’s exchanges. But, as reported Thursday by the Review-Journal’s Steve Tetreault, the law allows the staff of congressional committees and leadership offices to stay off the exchanges and keep their current benefits, if their lawmaker bosses so decide.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.; House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio; and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., nonetheless diverted their entire staffs to the exchanges to obtain health insurance. Sen. Reid did not.

A handful of other lawmakers have kept their staffs off the Obamacare exchanges as well. That’s because the exchanges offer significantly worse coverage than what’s provided to rank-and-file federal workers — higher deductibles, higher out-of-pocket costs and higher premiums.

But some of these lawmakers oppose Obamacare and warned all along that it would be a disaster. Sen. Reid is its unyielding champion. If the law is so great, and it’s vital that everyone comply with its provisions, all of his staff should be experiencing it first-hand.

Kristen Orthman, a spokeswoman for Sen. Reid, said her boss is following the law and has proposed a fix to the staff coverage discrepancy, but Republicans won’t go along. Imagine that: The GOP, which has no culpability in this mess, actually wants something in return for votes that are politically beneficial to Democrats whose poll numbers are tanking.

But Sen. Reid doesn’t need another Obamacare revision to do the right thing. He could make all of his staff join the unwashed masses in the exchanges today, just as he said they would in the run-up to October’s government shutdown, just as his leadership colleagues have done. He simply doesn’t want to. And in protecting some of his staff from a law he proclaims to love, Sen. Reid makes a powerful case for its outright repeal.

Sen. Reid is no different from members of Congress who voted in favor of Prohibition while keeping stashes of booze in their offices and homes. It’s more “Do as I say, not as I do,” from the uncompromising Nevadan. The law applies to thee, but not to me.

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