By Mike Lillis - 03/20/14 01:36 PM EDT
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi defended the president's healthcare law as "a winner" despite worries of increasing premiums and the drag it could have on Democrats this fall.
Four years after the Affordable Care Act was signed into law, Pelosi defended the hiccups of its implementation in a rare recess-week press conference. The California Democrat pushed back on the idea that ObamaCare would hinder Democrats' hopes in this year's midterms, saying, "I believe that it's a winner."
Republicans have attacked the ACA as an example of government overreach that will limit patient access and increase costs.
But Pelosi warned that the Republicans' emphasis on the law as a campaign plank will backfire.
"We don't weigh its value as to what it means politically. We weigh its value as to what it means to the health, well-being, economic and health security of America's families," she said. "We just couldn't be prouder."
In the wake of a report earlier this week by The Hill that insurance costs would skyrocket before the November elections, both Pelosi and Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) acknowledged that premiums might rise — as they've done each year for decades. But the Democrats argued the costs will increase at a slower rate under the ObamaCare, providing real consumer savings that would not have materialized without the law in place.
"You have to compare what premiums are in the Affordable Care Act to what they otherwise would be," Van Hollen said the Capitol Hill press briefing. "Inflation is real, right? I mean, when people say, 'Well, the price is a little bit different, [it's] going to go up a little bit tomorrow.' Well, of course, prices rise. And healthcare prices ... have historically risen much faster than inflation, and that's why premiums used to go through the roof.
"So compare premiums to what they would have been in the absence of the Affordable Care Act," he added. "That's the real question here."
The health insurance industry did not support the ACA, and now some industry officials are warning that the law could force them to hike 2015 premiums as much as double in certain parts of the country. Next year's rates are not known yet, but are scheduled for release later in the year.
"Everybody knows that the way the exchange has rolled out ... is going to lead to higher costs,” one senior insurance executive told The Hill this week.
Pelosi rejected those claims Thursday, hammering the critics for their anonymity — "Name names," she said repeatedly — and producing her own list of comments from on-the-record insurance industry officials downplaying the ACA's effects on next year's premiums.
"You can find anybody to say anything, but the fact is, the pattern is one of much lower cost than they would have been," she said.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has delivered a similar message in recent weeks, telling the House Ways and Means Committee that "premiums are likely to go up, but at a smaller pace than what we've seen since 2010," when the ACA became law.
Republicans have seized on such comments, selectively focusing on the likely cost increase rather than the slow-down in premium growth.
"HHS Secretary confirms: health plan premiums 'likely to go up' in 2015," Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) tweeted last week in response to Sebelius's testimony.
The back-and-forth is just the latest evidence that the ACA is likely to play a central role in this year's midterm elections. Indeed, Thursday's Democratic press conference — rare for a week when Congress is on recess — was designed to highlight both the four-year anniversary of the ACA and the benefits that have set in under the law.