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 who submitted their bids for 2015 costs show each one 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