Senate GOP Using MLR for Attack Fodder

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The medical loss ratio may not be the first thing that comes to voters’ minds when they think of the Affordable Care Act, but Republicans campaign operatives are trying to change that.

While the health reform law has provided plenty of fodder for the GOP — think “death panels” and the individual mandate — new National Republican Senatorial Committee attacks exploiting the MLR show that the health reform law may be the gift that keeps on giving to Republicans.

On Thursday, the NRSC blasted out an attack against Rep. Tammy Baldwin, who’s running for Senate in 2012, after Wisconsin applied for temporary relief from the requirement for insurers in the individual market to spend at least 80 percent of premium dollars on providing care.

“As the negative consequences of President Obama and liberal Madison Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin’s (D-Wis.) massive health care overhaul continue to emerge, Wisconsin joins 16 other American states in requesting a waiver from fully implementing the ominous $2.5 trillion law,” the NRSC wrote.

On the same day, NRSC communications director Brian Walsh tweeted out a Des Moines Register story about an insurer’s decision to flee the individual market because of the ACA’s MLR requirements. The story noted that the company would eliminate 70 jobs in Omaha, Neb., because of the decision, providing a new opportunity to attack Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) for his ACA support.

“Must read — Seventy Nebraskans to lose their jobs in Omaha because of @SenBenNelson's 60th vote for ObamaCare,” Walsh tweeted.

The heightened attacks on the MLR requirement come as a new Kaiser Family Foundation poll shows health reform is suffering from its lowest popularity since it was passed in March 2010 — and a large dip in favorability among Democrats is fueling the slide.

But progressives are trying to put their own stamp on the MLR debate. Health Care for America Now this week called on HHS to hold a hearing on Florida’s request for temporary relief from the MLR requirements. The advocacy group Consumer Watchdog also called on HHS to reject the state’s application, which it characterized as “a political, not an economic, act."

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