Democrats Prepare to Defend Obamacare Rate Hikes

Monday, 07 Jul 2014 09:10 AM

By Melanie Batley

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This fall, most states are expected to announce increases in 2015 health insurance premiums, and Democrats, aware of their vulnerabilities on Obamacare, are embarking on a damage control campaign to limit any potential fallout at the polls in November.

According to Politico, the White House's internal healthcare operation is gearing up to pre-empt GOP attacks on the issue, using a rapid response operation and a coordinated effort with the Democratic congressional leadership to provide localized analysis, data, and talking points to each state's delegation.

"One of the lessons we've learned in implementing healthcare is to stay on it," Tara McGuinness, the White House senior communications adviser who has been spearheading the effort for the West Wing, told Politico. "We are not going to let anyone distort the debate."

Roughly six aides are dedicated to the effort with the help of staff at the Department of Health and Human Services.

Rates have not been finalized by state and federal insurance authorities yet, but 21 states have indicated bids for 2015. Preliminary indicators suggest that premiums will increase in every one of those states, though only a few will increase by double digits, according to Politico.

"The amount of misinformation out there can be overwhelming, so you have to make sure that members have the historical trends, they have the new information in a straightforward way," Drew Hammill, communications director to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and one of the White House’s primary points of contact on the effort, told Politico.

The White House and Democrats acknowledge that rates will increase but are hoping to quash "rates-through-the-ceiling stories" that dominated coverage last year, according to Politico.

"Everybody's looking around the next corner, but I think there's a growing confidence that we've figured out how to explain and message this bill," Connecticut Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy told Politico. "Some of these rate increases are going to look scary, but not compared to rate increases prior to the Affordable Care Act."

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