Aware that state insurance rate hikes could give Republicans a chance to resurrect Obamacare as a political liability just weeks before the midterms, the White House’s internal health care enrollment outreach apparatus immediately redirected into a rapid-response, blocking-and-tackling research and press operation geared toward preempting GOP attacks on the issue.
In what aides say is a sign of a changed approach within the White House — but also heightened concerns around the midterms — they’re even coordinating with Hill Democrats, funneling localized background analysis and talking points to each state’s delegation through Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and New York Sen. Chuck Schumer’s Senate Democratic Policy and Communications Committee. They’ve also relied on California Rep. Henry Waxman’s staff at the Energy and Commerce Committee to produce rebuttal reports, often in advance, on GOP claims about insurance.
“One of the lessons we’ve learned in implementing health care is to stay on it,” said Tara McGuinness, the White House senior communications adviser who has been spearheading the effort for the West Wing, reflecting on previous run-ins. “We are not going to let anyone distort the debate.”
Initial reports in the 21 states that submitted their bids for 2015 costs show each of them going up, some by double digits.
For months, the half-dozen White House communications and policy aides have been assembling state-by-state histories of health insurance rates before the Affordable Care Act was implemented, the drop-offs between initial rate proposals and final rates, and an analysis of the law’s effects and projections for 2015 — all condensed to fit on a two-page background and talking points document tailored for each state.
Then they wait, closely tracking developments in the states in order to be ready to pounce when rates are announced.
When they see a state preparing to announce premium proposals, McGuinness emails Reid’s and Pelosi’s offices, who then connect her team with the chiefs of staff and press aides for every Democrat in the state’s congressional delegation. They put together policy and communications briefings for the members’ staffs, and occasionally the members themselves.
Regardless of what they want to say or the rhetoric they want to use, in Ohio, consumers are paying more. The facts are what the facts are. And the facts are that Obamacare is making things more expensive in Ohio.
Apparently the White House will point to those areas where costs decrease. But despite what they come up with, will Americans really care that other people’s costs go down as theirs rise? Or if their costs go down but the deductible goes up as what happened in many cases during the last open enrollment period, do they really believe Americans will feel their costs went down? My view is that Americans are smart enough to see through the bull.
Cross-posted at The Lid