- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Striking a defiant posture, a group of Senate Democrats on Wednesday pushed back at Republican “haters” of Obamacare and said they will redouble their efforts to highlight people who are gaining health coverage and saving money because of the reforms.

They accused Republican lawmakers of inventing tales of woe related to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and that the public should expect a string of press appearances, social media campaigns and other efforts to promote the law.

“We won’t be shy about it,” Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, said.

Their full-court press piggy-backed on the Obama administration’s announcement late Tuesday that a total of 4 million Americans have signed up for private coverage through the health care law’s marketplace, after an admittedly rocky rollout last fall. 

They shared stories of people who saved money on coverage and prescription drugs because of the law, and hit back at a string of GOP senators who took to the chamber floor Wednesday morning to argue the Obama administration was robbing Medicare Advantage — an insurer-run alternative to the government program for seniors — to pay for Obamacare.

Republicans see a major opportunity on using the health care law’s early stumbles as a weapon against Democratic incumbents in this year’s midterm elections, and several Senate Democrats have complained to the White House about web glitches on the law’s health exchanges and millions of constituents who lost barebones plans that did not meet the overhaul’s coverage requirements.

Notably, the five Senate Democrats who launched the pro-Obamacare initiative Wednesday— Mr. Schumer, Chris Murphy of Connecticut, Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, Barbara Boxer of California and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island — are not up for reelection this year.

Pressed on this point, Mr. Murphy said more than 20 Democrats are on board with the effort, and he expected those up for reelection in 2014 to join future events. He said it would be a mistake for candidates to pretend the health care law is not an issue, much like they did in 2010.

“They paid the price at the ballot box,” he said, alluding to the conservative tea party’s inroads into Congress after the sweeping overhaul was signed into law.

Still, Democratic candidates in solidly red or right-leaning states are treading warily.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire has written numbers letters to the Obama administration demanding improvements to Obamacare systems or allowances for people who had trouble signing up and face penalties under the law’s individual mandate, which requires almost all Americans to hold health insurance.

Another incumbent on the ballot this year, Sen. Mary Landrieu, Louisiana Democrat, introduced a measure that would help people retain insurance policies slated for cancellation under President Obama’s law, when it became clear that people who thought they could keep their existing coverage could not, despite prior assurances from the White House.

Mr. Murphy on Wednesday said he will not deny the law’s early stumbles, but said positive anecdotes will far outweigh negative ones when the nation takes stock of Mr. Obama’s signature domestic achievement.

“It’s time to admit that the ACA is working,” he said.

 

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