Not for Congress

(The Journal’s editorial of Friday, Oct. 4, (Not for Congress) was in error when it said that a Republican budget proposal on Sept. 30 would have eliminated government health insurance for Congress, lawmakers’ staffs, White House appointees and other federal employees. What the Republicans proposed, and what Senate Democrats rejected, was a ban on the federal government giving subsidies to Congressional members and staff to help them buy insurance in the Obamacare exchanges.

The gist of the editorial, that Congress should bear the same financial burden as the rest of the country when it comes to Obamacare, stands.)

Members of Congress might have been more interested in delaying the Affordable Care Act if they and their staffs had to cope with anything like it. But they do not.

At the heart of the disagreement that shut down many federal government agencies this week is the bitter battle over the ACA. At first, conservative lawmakers wanted to defund it. Democrats rejected it.

Then conservatives wanted to delay most of the law’s provisions for a year, in keeping with exemptions President Barack Obama already has granted for big business, some labor unions and a few others. No, said Democrats.

On Monday, conservatives in the House of Representatives proposed another change. This one was to eliminate government health insurance for Congress, lawmakers’ staffs, White House appointees and a few thousand other federal employees. They would have been directed to the highly touted insurance exchanges.

Again, the answer was a firm “no.”

But why not, if the Affordable Care Act is such a great deal for the 300 million or so other Americans who will be forced to cope with it in one way or another?

Because taxpayer subsidies for insurance covering the about 18,000 federal employees in question are worth up to $11,000 a year. That is what it is estimated some of them would have to pay out of their own pockets to obtain “affordable” insurance equivalent to what they have now.

They would have been required to do that under a provision inserted into the law three years ago by conservatives. But the White House Office of Personnel Management ruled the employees can keep taxpayer insurance subsidies they enjoy now.

“Obamacare,” in other words, isn’t good enough for a few presidential employees and members of Congress. For most of the rest of us, though, it’s the law of the land.

We don’t agree with the method being used to push this agenda, but the question merits debate.

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