October 8, 2013

MSNBC host Joe Scarborough, name partner in “Morning Joe,” got his rhetorical rear end handed to him in a Sept. 25 segment on Obamacare (see video below). He was chatting with Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) about the politics of health care, and he posed a question with a wobbly premise to his guest: “Shouldn’t you all get rid of the Capitol Hill exemption [to Obamacare]?”

McCaskill: “There isn’t a Capitol Hill exemption.”

Scarborough: “There is a Capitol Hill exemption.”

What ensued was a panel pummeling. McCaskill pointed out that congressional lawmakers and their staff are being kicked off of their longtime federal health-benefits plan and being set loose on the famous exchanges established under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). And when she noted that Congress and its employees are the only ones who are required to purchase insurance on the exchange, Scarborough looked dumbfounded. Sam Stein of the Huffington Post confirmed McCaskill’s version of events. Scarborough moved on to other topics.

Only temporarily, however. On this morning’s show (video above), the co-host blasted President Obama for his maneuvers on this issue: “The president has given over a thousand exemptions for his own health-care package, unilaterally. He’s exempted huge corporations, he’s exempted Congress itself, he’s exempted a lot of friends and a lot of supporters.”

As the Erik Wemple Blog and many, many others have pointed out, there is simply no congressional exemption from Obamacare. In fact, this proposed rule from the Office of Personnel Management states that Congress and its staffers will be booted from the Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) Program effective Dec. 31 of this year. They’ll then have to shop on the exchanges, with the help of the employer contribution that they now enjoy. Status quo on that front, in other words.

If Scarborough and others want to argue that lawmakers and staffers shouldn’t get their employer contribution, they should make that argument. But they should not hide behind the inflammatory and misleading “exemption” claim. It’s just not true.

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Erik Wemple writes the Erik Wemple blog, where he reports and opines on media organizations of all sorts.