Former Senator Opens Luxury Animal Hospital, But May Try To Avoid Insuring His Human Employees

CREDIT: Jason Bean/Las Vegas Review-Journal

John Ensign in his new luxury animal hospital

John Ensign, a former Republican senator from Nevada, is going down a new career path after leaving the political world behind. He’s about to open a luxury hospital for pet animals in Las Vegas. Ensign, who’s trained as a veterinarian, describes his business model as a blend of “cutting-edge care with Ritz-Carlton services.”

A profile in the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports that the former lawmaker’s new pet hospital includes a 1,600-square-foot exercise area, pet boarding suites with flat-screen televisions showing the DOGTV channel, webcams so owners can monitor their dogs online, high-density insulation to help keep down on noise and “reduce pet stress,” and on-site ultrasound and digital X-ray machines. Ensign explained even in the struggling economy, spending on pets has increased.

When asked about his feelings about leaving Washington, DC behind, Ensign told reporters that he did not miss the nation’s capital. The Review-Journal’s piece notes that “the only time he brought up politics unprompted was when a reporter asked how big he wanted his nine-employee clinic to get. He smiled and said he didn’t want more than 50 employees — a dig at the health coverage mandate on businesses that pass that threshold under Obamacare, the insurance-reform law Ensign voted against.”

Ensign is opening his own business despite his frequent insinuations that the health law will make it too hard for small business owners to get off the ground. “This is one of the most fiscally damaging laws in the history of our nation, and we simply cannot afford it,” Ensign said in 2011 after casting one of his many votes to defund Obamacare. “The billions of dollars that it will cost our state and the constraints it will place on small businesses across our country is unsustainable. I have met with many small businesses throughout Nevada that have had to scale back operations and cut employees because of the onerous costs that they will likely incur in the name of healthcare reform.”

Obamacare’s employer mandate intends to ensure that businesses cannot skip out on providing adequate health coverage to employees who are working at least 30 hours a week. Opponents of the health reform law, like Ensign, claim this particular provision is too expensive for companies to follow. They say it’s forcing employers to slash workers’ schedules so they remain below 30 hours, or cut back on hiring new employees, in order to avoid the requirement to extend basic health benefits. In reality, however, outside studies have found that very few companies are cutting hours or avoiding hiring specifically because of Obamacare. Instead, employers are using the health law as a convenient excuse to skimp out on benefits — something they were doing long before Obamacare was around.

Ensign perhaps wasn’t pleased about the contrast between the luxury care he provides to pets and the basic health care he is skeptical about providing to employees. In the updated version of the article that is currently available online, his comment about Obamacare is removed. The Las Vegas Review-Journal has not returned several ThinkProgress requests for comment about the editorial decision.


The Last Vegas Review-Journal has confirmed to ThinkProgress that Ensign’s quote was not removed because of any push-back surrounding it. The website is currently experiencing a technical glitch formatting longer stories that have been trimmed for print publication, and Review-Journal employees are working to resolve it. They expect the full article with the quote to be restored online shortly.

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