House Democrats

Democrats ready to bail on Obama, party consultants fear voter backlash

Thanksgiving won’t be a break from Obamacare for the administration and vulnerable Democrats concerned that the law could be perilous for their political futures as the self-imposed November 30 deadline to fix the disastrous federal exchange website, Healthcare.gov, is less than a week away.

Politico had two very interesting stories yesterday that gave readers a taste the nervousness from Democrats, one of which highlighted the prospect for backlash if the administration fails to meet the deadline to fix the website:

Democratic lawmakers — particularly those on the House side — are preparing to try to put distance between themselves and the president because they’re not confident that the White House has a Plan B for getting the policy right or protecting them in the mid-term elections.

“I don’t sense that at all. When you think about it, a week after the October shutdown Democrats were experiencing a euphoric high. We thought we had Republicans on the mat. We thought we were going to win back the House and then this rollout fails,” said one House Democrat from a traditionally safe seat based in a major city. “Now, we need to be concerned, all of us, me included, that we aren’t viewed as ineffective and kicked out of our seats.”

Not only are Democrats watching helplessly as visions of taking over the House begin to dissolve, but they increasingly perceive the danger that the Senate could flip into GOP hands and that Obama’s final three years in office could be a total loss for their party’s agenda.

That is, the Affordable Care Act has a lot of Democrats feeling uninsured or under-assured by Obama.

Democratic staffers suffer from “sticker shock” because of Obamacare premiums

Grab the violin and get ready to play, “My Heart Bleeds for You,” because many Democratic congressional staffers are suffering from “sticker shock” after seeing the premiums for health plans available through the District of Columbia’s Obamacare exchange:

Veteran House Democratic aides are sick over the insurance prices they’ll pay under Obamacare, and they’re scrambling to find a cure.

“In a shock to the system, the older staff in my office (folks over 59) have now found out their personal health insurance costs (even with the government contribution) have gone up 3-4 times what they were paying before,” Minh Ta, chief of staff to Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.), wrote to fellow Democratic chiefs of staff in an email message obtained by POLITICO. “Simply unacceptable.”

In the email, Ta noted that older congressional staffs may leave their jobs because of the change to their health insurance.
[…]
For instance, the premiums for gold-level Aetna HMO plans in D.C. cost an average of $684.40 per month for a 55-year-old. A similar plan would cost an average of $287.11 for a 27-year-old. The gold-level CareFirst HMO plans have an average premium of $573.07 for a 55-year-old — more than double the $240.41 average for 27-year-olds. That’s before the federal employee contribution toward the premium.

Administration delays 2015 open enrollment period until after the election

Democrats have insisted that they’re not running from Obamacare, despite the disastrous and politically embarrassing rollout of the law. In fact, DNC Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) recently told CNN that incumbents and candidates from her party “will be able to run on Obamacare as an advantage.”

If that’s truly the case, that Democrats will run on Obamacare next year, then why did the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) delay the open enrollment period for 2015 until after the mid-term election?

That’s right, folks. HHS announced on Friday that it is pushing back the open enrollment period to November 15, 2014, according to Bloomberg. Open enrollment was set to begin on October 15, just weeks before the November 4 mid-term election.

Why would HHS do this? It’s a sign that the administration expects health insurance premiums for plans on the state and federal Obamacare exchanges will be much higher than anticipated. Stories of “sticker shock” would be a big problem for Democrats running in competitive races across the country. Any technical issues user experience would also be a non-factor.

UT-04: Mia Love slams incumbent Democrat

One of the most anticipated House races in 2014 will be the rematch between Rep. Jim Matheson (D-UT) and Saratoga Springs Mayor Mia Love in Utah’s Fourth Congressional District (UT-04). The candidates are 11 months away from the general election, and shots are already being fired by both sides:

Saratoga Springs Mayor Mia Love says Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, is an ineffective, “squishy” moderate who has alienated Democrats and has no clout with Republicans.

Matheson says Love is a tea-party extremist who, if elected, would only add to the polarization crippling Congress.
[…]
“I am not an extremist. I’ve never been an extremist,” Love said Tuesday during a visit to Washington, D.C.. “I’ve talked to other tea-party members and, you know, the tea [partyers] have different ideas of who they are and what they believe in and what I’m telling you now is they’ve been the ones who label me. I don’t want anyone to put me in a box.”

The incumbent Democrat barely survived a challenge from Love last year. In the run up to the 2012 election, Matheson trailed by double digits, but managed to pull out a 2,646-vote win on election day.

Matheson has been trying to distance himself from national Democrats. He opposed Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s bid for re-election as leader of the House Democratic Caucus and has voted with Republicans on several issues, including Obamacare.

Congressional Democrats, aides panicked about Obamacare

President Barack Obama isn’t just struggling with falling approval ratings and rising public opposition to Obamacare. The Hill reported yesterday that he’s also finding growing concern among congressional Democrats and their aides who are worried that the botched rollout of the law could hurt the party (emphasis added):

President Obama’s relationship with congressional Democrats has worsened to an unprecedented low, Democratic aides say.

They are letting it be known that House and Senate Democrats are increasingly frustrated, bitter and angry with the White House over ObamaCare’s botched rollout, and that the president’s mea culpa in a news conference last week failed to soothe any ill will.

Sources who attended a meeting of House chiefs of staff on Monday say the room was seething with anger over the immense damage being done to the Democratic Party and talk was of scrapping rollout events for the Affordable Care Act.

“Here we are, we’re supposed to be selling this to people, and it’s all screwed up,” one chief of staff ranted. “This either gets fixed or this could be the demise of the Democratic Party.

“It’s probably the worst I’ve ever seen it,” the aide said of the recent mood on Capitol Hill. “It’s bad. It’s really bad.”

House Dem questions legality of Obama’s “administrative fix”

Nick Rahall

The legality of President Barack Obama’s “administrative fix” has come into question by legal scholars who, correctly, note that the administration doesn’t have the authority to arbitrarily delay enforcement of politically inconvenient provisions of Obamacare.

The criticism isn’t coming from critics of the law, but also those who voted for it. Rep. Nick Rahall (D-WV) told CBS News that the legality of the move was one of the reasons he voted for the Republican-proposed Keep Your Health Plan Act, despite a veto threat from the White House.

Rahall was asked if voted for the Keep Your Health Plan Act because he thought President Obama’s fix didn’t go far enough. “I voted yes, perhaps that was part of the reason,” Rahall told CBS News. “But the main reason was, I’m not sure he had the legal underpinning to do what he did.”

Obama announces “administrative fix” for Obamacare

President Barack Obama bowed to pressure from congressional Democrats worried about the impact that insurance cancellations could have in the 2014 mid-term election by announcing an “administrative fix” to the law.

“Already people who have plans that pre-date the Affordable Care Act can keep those plans if they haven’t changed. That was already in the law. That’s what’s called a grandfather clause that was included in the law,” President Obama told reporters at the White House.

“Today we’re going to extend that principle both to people whose plans have changed since the law too effect and to people who bought plans since the law took effect,” he said. “[I]nsurers can extend current plans that would otherwise be cancelled into 2014. And Americans whose plans have been cancelled can choose to re-enroll in the same kind of plan.”

The administrative fix, which will be carried out through regulatory fiat, will let insurers continue to offer plans already in effect that are slated to be canceled at the end of the year, if they so choose. It would also require insurers to let inform consumers about plans available on the federal and state exchanges.

Ex-Democrat staffer sees her health insurance premiums soar

 Kane County Chronicle)

Sue Klinkhamer, a former district director for Rep. Bill Foster (D-IL), had joined a growing number of Americans who have seen their health insurance premiums rise because of Obamacare, and she’s livid about it, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

Klinkhamer, who has coverage through Blue Cross, was recently told that her policy would be canceled at the end of the year, but she was given other options. Those options, however, are more expensive than the policy she currently has.

The Chicago Sun-Times obtained an email from Klinkhamer, in which she expressed her dismay and anger, to her former boss and colleagues.

“I spent two years defending Obamacare. I had constituents scream at me, spit at me and call me names that I can’t put in print. The congressman was not re-elected in 2010 mainly because of the anti-Obamacare anger. When the congressman was not re-elected, I also (along with the rest of our staff) lost my job,” wrote Klinkhamer. Foster was defeated in 2010, but ran again in 2012 and won.

“I was upset that because of the health care issue, I didn’t have a job anymore but still defended Obamacare because it would make health care available to everyone at, what I assumed, would be an affordable price. I have now learned that I was wrong,” she explained. “Very wrong.”

Klinkhamer had been paying $291 per month for a policy with a $3,500 annual deductible. The cost for a similar plan under Obamacare will be $647. She could also pay for $322 for a plan with a $6,500 annual deductible.

Obama’s hometown paper trashes Obamacare

The federal health insurance website isn’t the only problem with Obamacare, even though its received the brunt of attention since its miserable, humiliating launch at the beginning of the month. The editorial board of the Chicago Tribune, President Barack Obama’s hometown paper, reflected on some of other problems with the law and called for a year delay in the individual mandate.

“Not long after she uttered that infamous phrase [“We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it…”], Pelosi got her way. She stampeded House Democrats to vote for a massive, complex Obamacare plan that few lawmakers in either party had time to understand. She and Democratic Senate leaders ramrodded Obamacare without a single Republican vote,” noted the Chicago Tribune’s editorial board on Friday.

“Democratic lawmakers voted for a bill without a clear idea of how well it would work,” they explained. “Now they know.”

The Tribune contended that Obamacare is “faltering under its own bureaucratic weight,” pointing to the trouble with the websites. These troubles, they note, has caused many Democrats to break with the administration and call for accountability, which could put HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’ job in jeopardy.

House Democrat: Delay the individual mandate for a year

John Barrow

Rep. John Barrow (D-GA) joined the chorus of Democrats urging relief for Americans who could be hit with ObamaCare’s individual mandate tax because of the ongoing problems with the federal health insurance exchange website.

“Since October 1st, millions of Americans have attempted to access healthcare.gov to try to learn about the health insurance coverage they’re required to buy. And every day, we’re learning more and more about the problems they’re facing,” said Barrow on Wednesday. “Folks are frustrated, and rightfully so.”

Barrow introduced legislation at the beginning of the year that would repeal a few of the most controversial provisions in the law, including the individual mandate and the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB, also referred to as “death panels”). He has also co-sponsored a measure introduced by Rep. Charles Boustany (R-LA) to repeal the employer mandate.

 


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