6 Reasons Obamacare Can Win the Senate for the GOP

6 Reasons Obamacare Can Win the Senate for the GOP

REUTERS/Nate Chute

What ever happened to Obamacare -- the unpopular healthcare bill that was to be the Republicans big weapon as they battled for control of the Senate this fall?   For sure, the Affordable Care Act has been pushed to the sidelines by the chaos in Iraq, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the surge in Central American minors across our border, the Veterans Administration scandal, the pestilential virus rampaging across the computers of the federal government, and so much more…

Now, the GOP should circle back. There are nine Senate seats described as “toss-ups” by Real Clear Politics, and Obamacare could move the needle in some of those races. The ACA is still a political stink bomb, with Kaiser Family Foundation polling showing only 37 percent of the country views the law favorably – one of its lowest ratings since it passed in 2010.  Some 53 percent of Americans have an unfavorable opinion of the ACA - up a shocking 8 points since June.

Related: Insurers Say Obama’s ‘Fix’ Is Driving Up Premiums

Democrats understandably have neglected to highlight Obamacare on their campaign sites. Instead, for example, North Carolina’s Kay Hagan implores visitors to “Take a Stand Against the Koch Brothers,” which must confuse the uninitiated. Bruce Braley, running in Iowa, focuses on veterans’ issues and the farm bill. Nary a word on Mr. Obama’s legacy issue.

Several GOP campaign sites go light on Obamacare too. Thom Tillis in North Carolina broadcasts Kay Hagan’s close ties to President Obama, while David Perdue in Georgia emphasizes his business background. Joni Ernst, running neck in neck for the Iowa seat, brags on her front page, “I grew up castrating hogs on an Iowa farm, so in Washington I’ll know how to cut pork.” Some local color.

Other Republicans are following the expected playbook. Scott Brown, campaigning for the New Hampshire seat held by Jeanne Shaheen, goes all in against Obamacare. Ditto Republican Cory Gardner, running an uphill battle against Mark Udall in Colorado, who notes that 335,000 Coloradans lost their policies because of the ACA.

Bill Cassidy, with a light lead against Mary Landrieu in Louisiana, charges that Obamacare is causing that state’s premiums to rise. But Cassidy lists it fifth of five issues, after amnesty, purportedly “illegal” travel expenditures and other missteps by the incumbent.

While local issues vary, Republicans should double down, and remind voters how much they dislike the ACA. Why?

Related: So Far, Obamacare’s Hospital Reform Isn’t Working

1. Big premium hikes are slated for 2015. Because the country erupted in outrage over the millions of policies cancelled under Obamacare, which made a lie of the president’s vow, “If you like your insurance you can keep it,” the White House reversed course and allowed people to maintain existing coverage. As a result, the Obamacare exchanges were starved of the healthier people needed to pay for the sick and poor previously without insurance. Insurers are now planning to raise premiums.

According to PwC Health Research Institute, the average premium increase request for 2105 in North Carolina is 10.8 percent; in Iowa the hike is 11.5 percent. Many in Louisiana are looking at almost a 20 percent increase, and in Arkansas nearly 12 percent. That’s big, unpleasant news for Democrats.

2. Critics claim the Obama administration is fudging the ACA enrollment numbers. The White House trumpeted that 8 million Americans had signed up for Obamacare, but that total has been shrinking. Aetna, one of the program’s biggest players, reports that of their 720,000 enrollees, only about 600,000 are paying for their coverage, a number they expect will drop to about 500,000 by year-end. Other insurers indicate fall-off as well.

3. People are angry about the narrower choices of doctors and hospitals available to them.  In New Hampshire, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield was the sole insurer participating in the marketplace; it eliminated 10 of the state’s 26 hospitals from its network. According to Politico, such is the uproar about shrinking choices that “since the beginning of 2013, more than 70 bills have been introduced in 22 states to clarify the network rules, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.” In California, more than one group has sued Anthem Blue Cross, charging that the insurer misrepresented the scope of its doctor network.

Related: Up to 300,000 Could Lose Obamacare on Federal Exchange

4. The ACA was constructed incompetently. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit recently ruled illegal the federal subsidies paid to Obamacare enrollees in states that have not set up their own exchanges -- a stark reminder of how badly the healthcare bill was implemented. This and other unintended consequences are excellent arguments for significantly overhauling the ACA – an undertaking that might be possible under a Republican Senate but that has little or no hope otherwise. 

5. Obamacare highlights the president’s imperial tendencies. Mr. Obama has single-handedly changed the ACA some 24 times, delaying important provisions such as the employer and individual mandates. The president has rigged the rollout of the ACA to political advantage, putting off the most painful aspects of the bill and front-loading the goodies. Republicans should remind voters we have yet to encounter, for instance, the 40 percent Cadillac tax, which has been pushed back until 2018, but which is expected to raise as much as $214 billion by 2023.

6. Obamacare undermines job creation. The ACA has been the most important of a number of White House policies that have discouraged job creation at a time when the country is struggling to put people back to work. At last tally, there were 92 million adult Americans who are not working (like stay-at-home moms), are unemployed, retired or disabled. The workforce participation rate is at a decades-long low. This is unsustainable, and Obamacare is not helping. Companies have limited their hiring and also the number of hours their employers work because of the bill and have faced increased uncertainty. Meanwhile, because of the ACA, Americans no longer need to work to get health benefits – maybe a good thing for individuals, but not for a country whose safety net must be funded by an ever-greater workforce.

In short, there’s still meat on the bones of the Obamacare carcass; Republicans running for office should get out their knives and forks.

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