Premium Hike Drumbeat Before Elections

States are nailing down dates to release 2015 premium costs under ObamaCare, and their decisions will guarantee a drumbeat of news about rate hikes all the way to the November midterm elections.

Democrats are bracing for grim headlines that could put the unpopular law back at the forefront of voters’ minds.

Premiums are expected to go up in a majority of states, as they do every year, but the size of the increases could go a long way toward determining how much political damage ObamaCare inflicts on vulnerable Democratic lawmakers. 

A survey by The Hill of state insurance commissioners found that news about ObamaCare premiums will hit nearly every week this summer (see list below), providing ample opportunity for Republicans to attack any significant premium hikes. 

A slew of states will publish proposed prices in June, including Colorado and Louisiana — where the GOP is targeting Democratic Senate incumbents. 

Others will wait until later in the season, including West Virginia and Arkansas. Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) voted for the Affordable Care Act in 2010, a fact that his opponent, Rep. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), has repeatedly raised.

Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.), a top GOP target, will see her state publish rates on Aug. 15 or later. 

Health rates on the individual and small-group markets usually attract little to no attention from the political press. This year will be different.

Control of the Senate is within the GOP’s reach in 2014, and a resurgence of bad news about ObamaCare could boost Republican chances.

“That has the potential to be a very powerful weapon for the GOP in the midterms,” said Republican strategist Ford O’Connell.

Democrats, meanwhile, point to signs that the GOP is backing away from healthcare as the party’s main campaign issue.

Read more from Elise Viebeck 
and Pierre de Dreuzy at The Hill

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Analysis & Political Strategy