Here’s another unexpected way the politics of Obamacare are going to get scrambled in the days ahead – and not necessarily in the GOP’s favor — as the reality of mounting sign-ups sinks in.
It turns out that several of the states with some of the hardest fought races of the cycle are also boasting some of the highest Obamacare sign-up numbers in the country.
This is the news contained in new Obamacare marketplace sign-up data that the Department of Health and Human Services just released, which includes a state-by-state breakdown of sign-ups that wasn’t previously available.
In Florida, some 983,000 people are now signed up for private insurance through the federal exchange — up from 442,000 at the end of February. This is in a state where the Dem candidate for Governor — Charlie Crist — happens to be running on a very pro-Obamacare message. Crist is already seizing on the new data to attack GOP incumbent Governor Rick Scott for opposing the law — and over the consequences of repeal.
In a statement emailed my way, Crist said:
“This is great! Despite every obstacle to health care that Rick Scott put up, almost one million Floridians now have affordable health coverage, and even more Floridians would have coverage today if he had accepted federal funding for Medicaid or set up a state based exchange. If Rick Scott had his way, Floridians would be losing their health care because of coverage caps and unable to find affordable care because of pre-existing conditions.”
In North Carolina, some 357,000 people have now signed up for coverage through the federal exchange — up from 200,000 at the end of February. This could become more of an issue in the days ahead: Senator Kay Hagan has previously attacked likely GOP foe Thom Tillis for opposing setting up a state exchange and opposing the Medicaid expansion as state House speaker. Now the new numbers will provide fodder for Dems in the state to argue that North Carolinians wanted access to expanded health coverage — despite Tillis’ efforts to block it – underscoring the Dem message that Tillis’ state policies have been hostile to the middle class.
In Michigan, some 272,000 people have now signed up for coverage through the federal exchange — up from around 144,000 people at the end of February. On top of that, the Medicaid expansion is kicking in, which will add hundreds of thousands more. The Dem candidate there, Gary Peters, has already proven willing to attack GOP opponent Terri Lynn Land for opposing the Medicaid expansion, and Michigan Dems can seize on the mounting private enrollment to press the case that Land — who is pro repeal — would take the law’s benefits away from huge number of the folks she’d represent.
“Terri Land and Michigan Republicans in Congress don’t have a plan other than taking quality health care coverage and critical consumer protections away from 270,000 Michiganders,” Garrett Arwa, the excecutive director of the Michigan Democratic Party, tells me. “Michigan families deserve to know why Land and Republican politicians would put insurance companies back in control, cut access to mammograms and cancer screenings, and cut coverage for birth control.”
Now, the usual caveats: We don’t know how many people have paid, and we don’t know how many of these people were previously insured. None of this tells us much about the law’s long term prospects, which turn on the demographic mix and on how the exchanges fare over time, and there are other problems potentially lurking ahead. And surely, Republicans will continue to point to canceled plans in their own states to continue making their own case that the law is hurting people.
But these numbers will make it harder and harder for Republicans to continue pretending the law’s beneficiaries don’t exist — even in states that constitute tough political terrain for the law and Democratic candidates.
UPDATE: A couple others: In Georgia, the sign-ups are now at around 316,000, and in Louisiana they’re at around 101,000.