GOP to make electoral issue of 'Obamacare'
WASHINGTON -- Obama-care escaped unharmed from the government shutdown Republicans hoped would stop it, but just as quickly they have opened a new line of attack -- one handed to them by the administration itself.
While Congress was arguing, President Barack Obama's plan to expand coverage for the uninsured suffered a self-inflicted wound. A computer system gummed up the first open enrollment season and after nearly three weeks, it's still not fixed.
Republicans hope to ride that and other defects they see in the law into the 2014 elections.
Four Democratic senators are facing re-election for the first time since they voted for the Affordable Care Act, and their defeat will be critical to GOP aspirations for a Senate majority. Democrats say that's just more wishful thinking, if not obsession.
Although Obama's law remains divisive, only 29 percent of the public favors its complete repeal, according to a recent Gallup poll. The business-oriented wing of the Republican Party wants to move on to other issues. Americans may be growing weary of the health care fight.
"We need to stop the arguing and move forward to make it work," said Michael Weaver, a self-employed photographer in rural southern Illinois who's been uninsured for about a year.
It took him about a week and half, but Weaver kept going back to the healthcare.gov website until he was able to open an account and apply for a tax credit to reduce his premiums.
He's not finished because he hasn't selected an insurance plan, but he's been able to browse options.
It beats providing page after page of personal health information to insurance companies, Weaver said.
Under the new law, insurers have to accept those who have health problems. Weaver is in his mid-50s, with high blood pressure and high cholesterol, but otherwise in good health. He says those common conditions made it hard for him to get coverage before.
Such a nuanced critique appears to be lost on congressional Republicans. "#TrainWreck: Skyrocketing Prices, Blank Screens, & Error Messages," screamed the headline on a news release Friday from House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).
A House hearing on the "botched Obamacare rollout" is scheduled this week. Some GOP lawmakers want Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to resign.
Administration officials, in their most detailed accounting yet of the early rollout, said Saturday that about 476,000 health insurance applications have been filed through federal and state exchanges.
But they do not say how many people have enrolled in the insurance markets. Without enrollment figures, it's unclear whether the program is on track to reach the 7 million people projected by the Congressional Budget Office to gain coverage during the six-month sign-up period.
The president was expected to address the problems today during a health care event at the White House.
Democratic pollster Celinda Lake says she doesn't see how going after the health law rollout will help Republicans.
"Americans are technology optimists," Lake said. "You tell them the website has problems today, and they'll assume it will be better tomorrow. I mean, we're Americans. We can fix a website."