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Are Democrats ducking from Obamacare?

Published: Wednesday, March 27 2013 8:45 a.m. MDT

In this March 23, 2010 file photo President Barack Obama signs the health care bill in the East Room of the White House in Washington. He is flanked by Marcelas Owens of Seattle, left, and Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich. Behind, from left are, Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa., Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin of Ill., Vice President Joe Biden, Vicki Kennedy, widow of Sen. Ted Kennedy, Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., Rep. Sander Levin, D-Mich., Ryan Smith of Turlock, Calif., Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Md., Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nev., Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I., House Majority Whip James Clyburn of S.C., and Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif.

J. Scott Applewhite, Associated Press

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The battle over Obamacare is quickly shifting from rhetoric to reality, and Republicans are pouncing on indications that premiums for the already insured may soon be spiking.

As costly requirements for more extensive coverage and barring discrimination against preexisting conditions kick in, rates are already edging up. In California, Blue Shield and Aetna, two of the state's major insurers, recently announced rate hikes averaging 11 percent, the Los Angeles Times reported.

One broker told The Wall Street Journal that insurers are "not being shy that premiums are going to increase in 2014."

"His firm," WSJ reported, "has been hearing from carrier representatives that individual premiums in Florida could go up 35 percent to 50 percent, on average, and small-business rates around 30 percent, though it hopes to find strategies to blunt the impact."

Republicans have been aggressively jumping on any sign of weakness in the new law, from the fragility of the new exchanges to rate increases to the unpopularity of the medical device tax.

"Democrats were ambushed in the 2010 elections by the ferocious backlash to Obamacare,” wrote Jill Lawrence at the National Journal. "There will be no excuse if they are unprepared for what could be a repeat assault on the campaign trail in 2014. But there are few signs so far of an all-out long-term effort to celebrate or at least sell this landmark law."

On the third-year anniversary of the law's passing, Lawrence noted, the president issued a brief statement, but his weekly address was devoted to gun violence.

There was no such reticence from House Speaker John Boehner, who seized the anniversary to reassert plans to "continue working to scrap the law in its entirety," arguing that the new law “imposes a trillion dollars worth of tax hikes, including a medical device tax that will ship thousands of jobs overseas,” Salon reported.

The battle to define the law has high stakes, Lawrence wrote, and silence on the Left is not helping Obamacare.

"Democrats and interest groups and the president himself," Lawrence argued, "can’t afford to wait until they know which is winning, the horror stories or the heartwarming ones. They’ve got to uncurb their enthusiasm and keep it out front for months if they want the public to warm to this law and the people who made it happen."

Eric Schulzke writes on national politics for the Deseret News. He can be contacted at eschulzke@desnews.com.

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