Democrats, Fumbling No More

The party’s offensive on the Affordable Care Act continues.

President Obama throws a football at Soldier Field in Chicago.
National Journal
Lucia Graves
Add to Briefcase
Lucia Graves
Dec. 5, 2013, 10:38 a.m.

Pres­id­ent Obama re­cently al­lowed that on sev­er­al oc­ca­sions, he and his ad­min­is­tra­tion had “fumbled” with re­gard to the rol­lout of the Af­ford­able Care Act and sug­ges­ted it wouldn’t hap­pen again. “I am very frus­trated,” Obama said, “but I’m also some­body who, if I fumble the ball, you know, I’m go­ing to wait un­til I get the next play, and then I’m go­ing to try to run as hard as I can and do right by the team.” It ap­pears he’s mak­ing good on his word.

In the past few days, Demo­crats have taken up the of­fens­ive on the health care law, sound­ing off on the con­sequences of re­peal for the GOP as part of a three-week drive to re­fo­cus the pub­lic on the law’s be­ne­fits. Buoyed by im­prove­ments in Health­Care.Gov, the Demo­crat­ic Con­gres­sion­al Cam­paign Com­mit­tee is tar­get­ing 60 House Re­pub­lic­ans who have cri­ti­cized the Af­ford­able Care Act, blast­ing out state­ments that tout the be­ne­fits of the le­gis­la­tion and link­ing op­pon­ents’ cri­ti­cism of the law with things like im­mun­iz­a­tions for chil­dren and cov­er­ing those with preex­ist­ing con­di­tions. Law­makers in heated races around the coun­try are get­ting in on the ac­tion as well.

In New Jer­sey’s 2nd Dis­trict, Demo­crat­ic can­did­ate Bill Hughes, who’s run­ning in a hotly con­tested race to re­place Rep. Frank Lo­Bi­ondo, called on the con­gress­man to cease his par­ti­cip­a­tion in Re­pub­lic­an at­tacks on the pres­id­ent’s health care law. “Last month, Con­gress­man Frank Lo­Bi­ondo re­peatedly voted to shut down gov­ern­ment and brought us to verge of de­fault, all to ad­vance an agenda that would take South Jer­sey back to a time when in­sur­ance com­pan­ies could deny his con­stitu­ents cov­er­age for hav­ing preex­ist­ing con­di­tions,” wrote Hughes in an email to Garden State res­id­ents. Re­pub­lic­ans’ mis­sion, Hughes con­ten­ded in his missive, is to put in­sur­ance com­pan­ies back in con­trol so that they can drop South Jer­sey fam­il­ies’ cov­er­age at a mo­ment’s no­tice.

An­oth­er blast, sent out by Pete Aguilar, the top Demo­crat­ic can­did­ate in a race to un­seat Re­pub­lic­an Rep. Gary Miller in Cali­for­nia’s 2nd Dis­trict, soun­ded a sim­il­ar tune. “The rol­lout of the Af­ford­able Care Act has not been without its prob­lems,” wrote Aguilar in a blast to voters Wed­nes­day night. “But, re­peal­ing the law is not an op­tion. We can’t go back to put­ting big in­sur­ance com­pan­ies in charge of our health, where preex­ist­ing con­di­tions would ex­clude you from cov­er­age, or where simply be­ing a wo­man would in­crease costs.”

It all soun­ded un­can­nily like the case Steve Is­rael, chair­man of the Demo­crat­ic Con­gres­sion­al Cam­paign Com­mit­tee, made on Hard­ball Wed­nes­day night when he ar­gued that House Speak­er John Boehner and fel­low Re­pub­lic­ans were will­fully mis­lead­ing the Amer­ic­an people on the ACA. In a con­ver­sa­tion with Chris Mat­thews, Is­rael summed up the new cam­paign. “They know that they can­not af­ford as Re­pub­lic­ans, polit­ic­ally, for the Af­ford­able Care Act to suc­ceed. And you know what? We’re go­ing on of­fense now. We’re go­ing to let the Amer­ic­an people know that every single Re­pub­lic­an who talks about re­peal­ing the Af­ford­able Care Act is im­pos­ing, for ex­ample, a $1,200 tax on seni­ors by re­open­ing the donut hole. So when these Re­pub­lic­ans talk about re­peal, what they’re talk­ing about is hit­ting the middle class and seni­ors in their pock­et­books.”

Per­haps the DCCC is mak­ing in­roads already. At least one Re­pub­lic­an, Rep. Scott Ri­gell in Vir­gin­ia, has ad­mit­ted the law is ac­tu­ally help­ing some people and that Re­pub­lic­ans would do bet­ter to fo­cus on mak­ing changes to the law, rather than in­sist­ing on out­right re­peal. “It’s not in dis­pute that many Amer­ic­ans’ lives are be­ing dis­rup­ted in an im­port­ant way by this law,” Ri­gell told The New York Times. “Is it also true that some Amer­ic­ans’ lives have got­ten bet­ter? Yes, and to not ac­know­ledge that is to deny real­ity.”

Be­low is an ex­ample of an email the DCCC sent to res­id­ents in Re­pub­lic­an Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick’s dis­trict in Pennsylvania. Sim­il­ar in­form­a­tion about preex­ist­ing con­di­tions will be sent out in five dozen Re­pub­lic­an-held dis­tricts.

#Cost­sO­fRe­peal: Con­gress­man Fitzpatrick Would Deny Cov­er­age for 5,489,162 Pennsylvani­ans With Preex­ist­ing Con­di­tions

 

Be­cause of Con­gress­man Mike Fitzpatrick’s ob­ses­sion with re­peal­ing the Af­ford­able Care Act, 129 mil­lion Amer­ic­ans — in­clud­ing 5,489,162 people in Pennsylvania — could be denied cov­er­age simply be­cause they have a preex­ist­ing con­di­tion, send­ing us back to the days when in­sur­ance com­pan­ies were free to deny care to people with everything from can­cer to dia­betes to asthma.

 

Data from the De­part­ment of Health and Hu­man Ser­vices re­veals that since 2010, up to 17 mil­lion chil­dren with pre-ex­ist­ing con­di­tions, in­clud­ing 656,877 in Pennsylvania, can no longer be denied care be­cause of their health, and be­gin­ning this Janu­ary, that pro­tec­tion will ex­tend to all adults — un­less Con­gress­man Fitzpatrick gets his way, send­ing us back to the old sys­tem where in­sur­ance com­pan­ies were free to deny and drop cov­er­age simply for hav­ing asthma as a child, or even get­ting strep throat.

 

“Liv­ing in a con­stant state of dread wheth­er your in­sur­ance com­pany might drop you be­cause of a preex­ist­ing con­di­tion is simply wrong, but that’s ex­actly what Con­gress­man Fitzpatrick would do to 5,489,162 Pennsylvani­ans. For all those fam­il­ies, that means Con­gress­man Fitzpatrick’s re­peal plan would rob them of their peace of mind and se­cur­ity and in­stead could drive them in­to bank­ruptcy be­cause of their health con­di­tions,” said Emily Bittner of the Demo­crat­ic Con­gres­sion­al Cam­paign Com­mit­tee. “While Demo­crats work to im­prove the law to make it work bet­ter for the Amer­ic­an people, Con­gress­man Fitzpatrick is for­ging reck­lessly ahead with his re­peal ob­ses­sion that leaves the 129 mil­lion Amer­ic­ans out in the cold simply be­cause they have preex­ist­ing con­di­tions like asthma or can­cer.”

 

BACK­GROUND

 

Re­peal Could Deny Cov­er­age to 129 Mil­lion Amer­ic­ans with Pre-Ex­ist­ing Con­di­tions, In­clud­ing 17 Mil­lion Chil­dren. “As many as 129 mil­lion non-eld­erly Amer­ic­ans have a pre-ex­ist­ing health con­di­tion that puts them at risk of be­ing denied af­ford­able cov­er­age without health care over­haul, ac­cord­ing to a gov­ern­ment re­port. The es­tim­ate rep­res­ents nearly half of Amer­ic­ans young­er than 65, and 86 per­cent of people 55 to 64 [“¦] The act already pro­hib­its in­surers from lim­it­ing life­time cov­er­age to a fixed dol­lar amount or deny­ing cov­er­age to a child young­er than 19 be­cause of a pre-ex­ist­ing con­di­tion. As many as 17 mil­lion chil­dren young­er than 18 have a pre-ex­ist­ing con­di­tion, ac­cord­ing to the re­port.” [ABC News, 1/18/11]

 

House Re­pub­lic­ans Have Voted 46 Times to Re­peal or Dis­mantle the Af­ford­able Care Act.”Re­pub­lic­an elec­ted of­fi­cials have seen the Af­ford­able Care Act as es­sen­tially un­fix­able — that’s why House Re­pub­lic­ans voted 46 times to re­peal or delay the im­ple­ment­a­tion of the law, in­stead of work­ing with the White House over the past three years to identi­fy and solve prob­lems with­in it of the sort that tend to ac­cu­mu­late in any such massive piece of le­gis­la­tion.” [The At­lantic, 11/27/13]
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