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Column: Obamacare takes hold in some battlegrounds

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 the most fiercely contested midterm races also boast some of the highest sign-up numbers for Obamacare.

This news is contained in data released last week by the Department of Health and Human Services. They include a state-by-state breakdown of Obamacare marketplace sign-ups that wasn't previously available.

In Florida, some 983,000 people are now signed up for health coverage through the federal exchange — up from 442,000 at the end of February. This is in a state where the Democratic candidate for governor, Charlie Crist, is running on a very pro-Obamacare message. Crist is already seizing on the new data to attack GOP incumbent Gov. Rick Scott for opposing the law.

In North Carolina, some 357,000 people have now signed up — up from 200,000 at the end of February. This could become more of an issue in the days ahead: Sen. Kay Hagan has previously attacked her likely GOP foe, Thom Tillis, for his role as state House speaker in opposing Obamacare and the Medicaid expansion. The new numbers will provide fodder for Democrats in the state to argue that North Carolinians wanted access to expanded health coverage — despite Tillis' opposition.

In Michigan, some 272,000 people have signed up — up from around 144,000 people at the end of February. The Democratic candidate for Senate, Gary Peters, has already attacked his GOP opponent, Terri Lynn Land, for opposing the Medicaid expansion, and Michigan Democrats can seize on the mounting private enrollment numbers to press the case that Land — who is pro-repeal — would take the law's benefits away from huge numbers of the folks she'd represent.

Now the usual caveats: We don't know how many people have paid for coverage, and we don't know how many of these people were previously insured. And surely Republicans will continue to point to canceled plans in their states to continue making the case that the law is hurting people.

But these numbers will make it harder for Republicans to continue pretending that the law's beneficiaries don't exist — even in states that constitute tough political terrain for the law and Democratic candidates.

© 2014 Washington Post

Column: Obamacare takes hold in some battlegrounds 05/02/14 [Last modified: Friday, May 2, 2014 6:25pm]

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