California Healthline Daily Edition

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

ACA To Be Key Issue Ahead of 2014 Midterm Elections

On Tuesday, the Republican National Committee launched a multistate radio advertising campaign that takes aim at 12 Democratic senators and House representatives who support the Affordable Care Act and are up for re-election this November, Yahoo! News reports.

The ad campaign aims to reignite the controversy surrounding the insurance policy cancellation issue last fall that affected millions of U.S. residents. The ad highlights President Obama's oft-repeated promise to consumers about keeping their health plans under the ACA, noting that PolitiFact in December 2013 declared it the "Lie of the Year" (Moody, Yahoo! News, 1/7).

The first phase of the ad, which is airing in 40 media markets, targets:

  • Sen. Mark Begich (D-Ala.);
  • Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.);
  • Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.);
  • Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.);
  • Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.);
  • Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.);
  • Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.);
  • Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.);
  • Rep. Tim Bishop (D-N.Y.);
  • Rep. Bruce Braley (D-Iowa);
  • Rep. Gary Peters (D-Mich.); and
  • Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W.V.).

According to AP/ABC News, the radio spots -- which will be rolled out more than 300 days before Election Day -- strongly indicate that Republicans view the ACA as a major issue that they can leverage to keep control of the House and take back the majority from Democrats in the Senate.

The GOP now holds 45 Senate seats, while Democrats hold 53. The upper chamber has two independents that caucus with Democrats. Republicans need a net gain of six of the 21 seats that Democrats are defending to clinch control of the Senate, AP/ABC News notes.

During a press conference to announce the ad campaign, RNC Chair Reince Priebus confirmed that the ACA will be the GOP's focus going into the elections. He said, "Obamacare is going to be the issue in 2014." He added, "The law stinks, and it's a disaster. It's not possible for this not to be the No. 1 issue in the 2014 elections" (Elliott, AP/ABC News, 1/7).

National Republican Congressional Committee Chair Greg Walden (R-Ore.) echoed Priebus' sentiments, adding, "Despite wishful thinking on the part of some Democrats, Obamacare is not going away as a political issue -- and it's not getting better for the millions of Americans who have been negatively impacted." Walden added, "The failures we've seen so far are just the beginning -- and the consequences aren't just political" (Joseph, "Ballot Box," The Hill, 1/7).

Democrats Welcome ACA Debate

Democrats dismissed the size of the new RNC ad campaign and welcomed the renewed debate over the ACA. The Senate Majority PAC also announced that it has received $2.5 million from former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I) to rollout a counter-ad campaign intended to help Democrats retain control of the Senate (AP/ABC News, 1/7).

Michael Czin, a spokesperson for the Democratic National Committee, said the party is "happy" to have an ongoing debate about the ACA. He said, "Today, more Americans have better, more affordable health care than before thanks to the Affordable Care Act." He added, "The GOP shut down the government trying to take it all away and on their call today, they again celebrated their opposition to the law ... If that's the agenda they want to campaign on, they can go right ahead. That's a debate we're happy to have" (Yahoo! News, 1/7).

Obama Administration Purchases Winter Olympics Air Time

Meanwhile, the Obama administration is preparing its own ad campaign that will tout the benefits of the ACA, confirming Tuesday that it has purchased television air time during the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, between Feb. 7 and Feb. 23, Politico reports.

The ads will run in markets nationwide with high uninsured populations and appeal to young adults and their families, according to an HHS official.

According to HHS, the administration moved some of its paid media budget to NBC -- which is the exclusive television broadcast network for the Winter Olympics -- because ratings for general primetime and sports programming typically drop during Olympic events. HHS declined to provide specific details about the ad campaign (Cheney/Hohmann, Politico, 1/7).

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