Premium news gives attacks to GOP candidates


Associated Press

WASHINGTON

Republican Senate candidates are jumping on news of sharply rising premiums under President Barack Obama’s health care law as they seek advantage in the closing days of the election.

The unpopular law was already an issue in some key Senate races, a recurring attack line for GOP candidates and in some cases another way to tie Democrats to Hillary Clinton.

The latest rate hike news is “an exclamation point on the argument we’ve been making,” said Tim Phillips, president of Americans for Prosperity, a group backed by the conservative billionaire Koch Brothers, which has been working on Senate races around the country. “Right now Republicans are really excited to talk about Obamacare and the problems and failings and how it’s hurting people. Democrats do not want to talk about it because they know they’re losing with the American people.”

In Arizona, Sen. John McCain has been running ads lashing Democratic Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick for saying she was proud of her vote for the health law. In Indiana, where the parties are fiercely contesting an open seat, GOP Rep. Todd Young repeatedly turned the focus back to Obamacare in a debate last week against former Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh.

And in Wisconsin, where former Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold also is trying to get his old job back, GOP Sen. Ron Johnson has been airing an ad featuring voters complaining about the law, and Feingold’s vote for it. “Thank you Russ Feingold ... for nothing!” one woman says.

The rate-hike news this week provides additional ammunition. Before taxpayer-provided subsidies, premiums for a midlevel benchmark plan will increase an average of 25 percent across the 39 states served by the federally run online market, according to the administration. About 1 in 5 consumers will have plans only from a single insurer to pick from.

The new premiums vary significantly from state to state, but a couple of states hosting competitive Senate races, including Pennsylvania and North Carolina, are looking at increases above 40 percent.

For Republicans, it’s a rare piece of good news as they try to hang onto a slim 54-46 Senate majority.

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