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John DiStaso's Granite Status: Shaheen ACA vote helped spur cancellation notices

Senior Political Reporter

November 02. 2013 8:25PM

WAS SHE FOR IT BEFORE SHE WAS AGAINST IT? Back in September 2010, U.S. Senate Republicans tried to block implementation of the Affordable Care Act's "grandfather" rule that has led to millions of Americans now getting cancellation notices from their insurance companies.

According to CNN, Senate Democrats unanimously voted down the GOP resolution. That included Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, who now wants to delay the open enrollment period and related penalties for the ACA and has called its rollout a disaster.

The rule set out what insurance plans would be grandfathered, or exempted, from Obamacare, CNN reported Friday, adding, "Democrats argued then that the rule was necessary to ensure that insurance companies weren't able to drastically change their plans and still remain exempt from Obamacare."

Shaheen spokesman Elizabeth Kenisberg said Shaheen opposed the Republican effort to block the rule, and as a result supported the rule, because "this was a political amendment offered by someone who opposed the Affordable Care Act, and, if passed, would have undermined a number of important consumer protections in the law, including the ban on lifetime limits on key coverage for plans."

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ON THE EXCHANGE. Like the rest of Congress, Shaheen, Sen. Kelly Ayotte and Reps. Carol Shea-Porter and Annie Kuster faced a 5 p.m. deadline on Halloween to decide whether their staffs should sign up for the Obamacare exchange or remain on the federal health plan.

All four went with the exchange for their staffs in New Hampshire and Washington, according to their spokesmen.

It's no surprise the three Democrats did so, but Republican Ayotte, a major "Obamacare" opponent?

"Senator Ayotte believes members of Congress and their staff should be treated like everyone else, and she and her entire staff will purchase health insurance through the Obamacare exchanges," said Ayotte spokesman Liz Johnson.

"She believes all congressional staff, as well as members of the Obama administration, should do the same, including administration officials responsible for implementing the law who currently are exempted from the Obamacare exchanges."

The ACA as written requires members of Congress and "full-time and part-time employees employed by the official office of a member of Congress" to receive employer-sponsored insurance on ACA exchanges.

The federal Office of Personnel Management issued a rule in August that members of Congress and "official office" congressional staff will be required to purchase insurance through the ACA exchanges.

But the rule deferred to individual members to decide which of their staff members are designated "official office" staff.

In effect, OPM created a loophole, and some members of Congress are using it.

But Ayotte designated her entire staff as "official office" staff.

Ayotte earlier this year offered an amendment to the budget resolution that would have required congressional leadership and committee staff, as well as the President, vice president and executive branch political appointees, to purchase health insurance through the Obamacare exchanges.

But her amendment did not come up for a vote in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

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A SCATHING CONDEMNATION. A former Democratic state representative from Barrington takes Obamacare to task in an opinion piece on Page B9 of today's newspaper.Susan Price, a small-business owner, writes that she is being forced onto an expensive small-business plan by Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield and the ACA.

Price served in the House for one term in 2009 and 2010.

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CRITICAL OF CAROL. The conservative advocacy group Citizens for a Strong Economy this week will release a web video of Shea-Porter saying on WMUR in 2010, "It's our job to say, if you have insurance, and your employer covers you, it's not going to change."

That is in fact the case at least for another year, with the delay in the employer mandate.

But the "Citizens" group says the comment from Shea-Porter specifying "employer" coverage, shows either she didn't understand the bill and her comments in 2010 were meant to include both employer and individual plans, or she knowingly said the word "employer" because she actually knew that millions of individual plans would get canceled once the law was implemented.

We asked Shea-Porter's office for a comment on the group's charge Friday, but did not receive one.

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BIG DONATION. Former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown made political news in the Granite State throughout last week.

With appearances early in the week in Nashua and later in Stafford County and Amherst, along with the establishment of a New Hampshire political action committee, Brown caught the attention of Shaheen and her fellow Democrats.

They're telling supporters it appears Brown is readying a run against her.

We learned Friday that Brown is doing even more to help the GOP here.

He's written a $10,000 check to the New Hampshire Republican State Committee from the new Granite State version of his political action committee, "The People's Seat."

Brown joined Ayotte and Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, a potential presidential hopeful, at the "Chairman's Circle" donation level.

"Senator Brown is an outstanding leader and a strong voice for fiscally responsible policies," said party chairman Jennifer Horn.

"We appreciate his generous contribution and thank him for his continued efforts to support New Hampshire Republicans," she said.

Brown has not ruled out establishing residency in the state and running for Shaheen's Senate seat. He has family in New Hampshire, including his sister, Lee Ann Riley of Portsmouth, who is the treasurer of his PAC.

He is also scheduled to appear at a fundraiser for former U.S. Rep. Frank Guinta in Portsmouth on Nov. 14.

Shaheen's campaign last week sent out three fundraising emails critical of Brown and implying that he is planning to run.

Brown called the criticism "laughable" and accused Shaheen's camp of "scare tactics.

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HOSTING GUINTA, BROWN. The Guinta fundraiser with Brown is being hosted by an influential group of Seacoast Republican business executives, donors and activists.

The fundraiser, priced at $250 to $500 a person, will be held at the home of Zachary and Nancy Slater of Portsmouth.

Other hosts will be former state Senate President Bill Bartlett; Zachary Gregg, who is the nephew of former Sen. and Gov. Judd Gregg; businessman Jim Boyle; restaurateur John Tinios; attorney John Lyons; and activists/businesspeople Christopher Ayer, Christian Callahan, Russell Cox, Robert Gray, Joe Guyton, Daniel and Renee Plummer, Max and Andrea Pruna, state Rep. Pam and John Tucker, and David and Dana Patten.

Guinta, a former Manchester mayor, is making his third run for the 1st District U.S. House seat now held by Democratic Rep. Carol Shea-Porter. He defeated Shea-Porter in 2010 before losing to her in 2012.

He is facing a GOP primary challenge from former University of New Hampshire business school dean Dan Innis, who resides and owns a business in Portsmouth.

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ALREADY? It's early for legislative candidates to emerge, but already one Democratic state Senate challenger has done so.

State Rep. Chris Mums, D-Hampton, who chairs the legislative committee overseeing the compliance of the former New Hampshire Local Government Center with a state Bureau of Securities Regulation order, is running against Republican Sen. Nancy Stiles, also of Hampton, in District 24.

Mums already has a fundraising link on the Democratic "Act Blue" website, stating, "After many hours of conversation with - and considerable encouragement from - my family and constituents from throughout the district, I have decided to run for the New Hampshire state Senate in District 24. I am ready to step up to that challenge, and with your help - and a lot of hard work - I can win this seat, and we can take back control of the state Senate and continue to move our state forward."

He reports on the site having raised $3,300 so far.

John DiStaso is senior political reporter of the New Hampshire Union Leader and New Hampshire Sunday News. He can be reached at and followed on Twitter: @jdistaso.

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