Mary Landrieu’s role as chair of the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship committee may put her in an increasingly difficult situation as she campaigns for reelection. With small businesses’ health insurance prices expected to jump in the months leading up to the election thanks to Obamacare, Landrieu will find herself at odds with previous statements made while sitting on a committee that could be called upon to address the issue.
Yesterday, Politico described the incoming wave of cost hikes as “another political time bomb lurking that could explode” just a month before the November midterms. Many small-business will see their premiums increase at the end of 2014 under Obamacare, especially businesses with younger employees. Many employers were able to avoid compliance with some of the new regulations in 2013 by renewing their insurance policies earlier than usual, but they will be unable to renew those plans in October. One insurance broker told Politico that he expected 75 percent of his clients to see premiums increase; last month, another broker told Fox News that most small businesses are seeing premiums increase by at least 50 percent.
Landrieu, who has headed the committee since the beginning of the Obama presidency in January 2009, could be asked respond as upcoming effects of the law unfold, and she may very well have to explain her previous comments about its impact. In fact, she voiced support for health-care reform on the basis that health-care costs would rise for small businesses without the law. “From my visits with doctors and nurses, to seniors on Medicare, to recent college graduates struggling to afford coverage, to dozens and dozens of small business owners who are scared to death that they are not going to be able to continue in their business because of the rising cost of health care, it has become clear to me that the time for reform is now,” she said in 2009.
She also dismissed critics of the law who warned of it causing higher premiums, saying they were telling “a pathetic lie meant to derail the bill.”
The other question that will arise is how much the issue will prompt Landrieu to act through the committee, which has taken on a relatively light workload in recent years. Since 2011, the committee has held a total of 17 hearings. The House’s version of the committee has held nearly three times as many hearings during that same time period. The Senate committee has also seen a near three-year drought since its last legislation, according to their website.
Landrieu isn’t the only vulnerable Democrat on the committee; Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, and Kay Hagan of North Carolina also serve as members. Iowa’s Tom Harkin and Michigan’s Carl Levin, retiring Democrats from states with pick-up opportunities in 2014, are also on the committee.
How Landrieu lives up to her own website’s claim that she’s “leading efforts to ensure all small businesses have access to . . . superior health insurance at a low cost” as premium costs rise will be just another issue the incumbent Democratic — who is facing a tight race back home and falling approval ratings — will have to overcome as midterms gets underway.