Sebelius lashes out at GOP governors

Greg Nash

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Tuesday accused GOP governors of “playing with people’s lives” by refusing to expand Medicaid in their states under ObamaCare.

The criticism from Sebelius is the latest example of an effort by Democrats and the White House to take the offense on the issue of healthcare.

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Separately, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee released a memo on Wednesday, obtained exclusively by The Hill, informing its candidates that “the political landscape around the Affordable Care Act has shifted in Democrats’ favor” and urging them to use the GOP’s calls to repeal ObamaCare against Republicans.

“Americans are rejecting Republicans’ repeal agenda both nationally and in swing districts, where voters want to see the Affordable Care Act fixed and improved, not repealed,” the memo reads in part.

The DCCC memo cites seven independent polls that found Americans would prefer the healthcare law be changed, rather than replaced.

Democrats also think attacking Republicans who have not expanded the Medicaid program will be fruitful. It was a divisive issue for Republicans: GOP governors in nearly a dozen states either accepted the Medicaid expansion under ObamaCare outright or worked with the administration to design an expansion that catered to their needs.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) initially supported the Medicaid expansion but reversed course when he announced in December that he was running for reelection. Democrats are salivating over the prospect of unseating the vulnerable GOP firebrand, which would give them a crucial state capitol ahead of the 2016 race for the White House.

Sebelius singled out Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a possible GOP presidential candidate in 2016, for criticism. She said it was an outrage that some state governments hadn’t accepted federal dollars and expanded the Medicaid program in order to insure more people.

“It should be a conversation in every community, in every town hall, in every church group and every PTA program to put pressure on the governors and legislatures to say, this is not acceptable,” she said.

A high percentage of those who would obtain Medicaid under an expansion are blacks and Hispanics. As a result, the issue dovetails with the administration’s final enrollment push for ObamaCare and hits the GOP with groups it has struggled to gain traction with.

Sebelius noted Tuesday that some of these states, Texas and Florida in particular, have among the highest levels of uninsured citizens in the country.

Republicans are far from worried about the Democratic efforts.

They’ve repeatedly gone on the attack on ObamaCare themselves.

A notable example is Michigan, where the conservative group Americans for Prosperity is running an ad in which a leukemia patient blames the Affordable Care Act for the loss of her healthcare coverage.

“My message [to Democrats] is: Good luck,” said GOP strategist Matt Mackowiak. “Public opinion on that has shifted so far that, in the absence of some truly overwhelming good news, there’s no amount of money that can be spent to turn the tide.”

Several Democratic candidates are seeking to use ObamaCare to their advantage.

In Florida, Democratic House candidate Alex Sink is up with an ad criticizing her GOP opponent, David Jolly, for supporting

ObamaCare’s repeal, which she contends would hurt seniors. Sink and Jolly are locked in a close special election House race.

“We can’t go back to letting insurance companies do whatever they want,” Sink says in the ad. “Instead of repealing the health law, we need to keep what’s right and fix what’s wrong.”

That’s a tepid endorsement on its face but marks a change by Democrats, who were loath to touch ObamaCare in any way during the disastrous launch of HealthCare.gov in October.

The DCCC is also releasing ads on how repeal would affect some entitlement programs, and launching an online campaign seeking to personalize the effects of repeal in 57 districts.

“Time and again, national Republicans have predicted they will gain a significant number of seats in 2014 because of their position on the Affordable Care Act,” the DCCC memo says. “As Democrats work to fix and improve the law, House Republicans will find their repeal position is anathema to 2014 voters, who won’t choose representatives who will take us back to a broken health care system.”

In addition, House Majority PAC, which seeks to elect Democrats, is up with ads for Reps. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Ariz.) and Joe Garcia (D-Fla.). The ads concede the website launch was a disaster but attempt to the turn focus back to why Democrats believe the law was important in the first place.

“Both ads criticize the website rollout, but underscore the very reason the ACA is important in the first place,” House Majority PAC spokesman Andy Stone told The Hill. “I think you’ll see Democrats emphasizing success stories out there and helping draw the contrast with the GOP.”

Republicans on Capitol Hill have spent the last few months soliciting stories from their constituents that say they’ve been negatively affected by the healthcare law. And the GOP’s campaign ads have consistently hit those who voted for the law or haven’t shown a sufficient level of opposition to it.

“I don’t understand the [Democratic] strategy of wanting to fight on terrain that benefits Republicans,” Mackowiak said. “It’s really throwing good money out after bad ... the opportunity to show a good story about ObamaCare has passed.”