The Affordable Care Act is overcoming its initial problems and is making progress in accomplishing its mission of expanding and improving coverage, New Hampshire Governor Maggie Hassan said.
“I’m an optimist about it,” Hassan, a Democrat, said on Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt,” airing this weekend. “It’s about getting coverage, because we all know that a healthy population creates a healthy workforce and a healthy economy, because people will have access to primary and preventive care, and that will bring costs down.”
Hassan, whose state traditionally holds the first-in-the-nation presidential primary every four years, declined to say whether fellow Democrat Hillary Clinton, the former U.S. secretary of state, would clear the party’s field if she seeks the White House. Hassan, 55, said her focus was on maintaining New Hampshire’s place on the political calendar.
“Hillary Clinton is obviously somebody who’s done so many things and is so qualified to be president,” Hassan said. “The New Hampshire primary has the distinction and advantage where everybody can compete and be vetted in a real grassroots democracy,” she said. “It’s a very important start because it evens out the playing field,” she added. “I will fight very hard to keep the primary first.”
Hassan dismissed statements by some Republicans that former President Bill Clinton’s affair while in office with Monica Lewinsky would hurt his wife, who also served as a U.S. senator, with women voters. She said it’s not an issue that resonates.
“Women’s issues are economic issues,” Hassan said. “They’re people issues.”
Hassan criticized the rollout of Obamacare, formally known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, enacted in 2010 over unanimous Republican opposition in Congress.
“The rollout was frustrating and unacceptable,” Hassan said. “But what’s important, as we improve it and as we get the mechanics of it to work better, is to remember what the Affordable Care Act is really doing for the people of my state and the country. We wanted to make sure people who’ve never been able to have coverage before have it.”
The health-care website was unable to handle the rush of applications when it opened for business Oct. 1, and many discovered that their current plans would be canceled because of an insufficient level of coverage. Website repairs since have been made and enrollment reached 3 million in January, according to the administration.
Hassan also backed an increase in the minimum wage, which President Barack Obama is seeking. She took exception to a Congressional Budget Office estimate released this week that a minimum wage increase to $10.10 an hour may cost about 500,000 jobs even as it lifted 900,000 workers out of poverty and directly benefited 16.5 million. She said there are Nobel laureates who disagree that such a wage rise would cause job losses.
“The basic principle is that people who work really hard, 40 hours a week or more, should be able to sustain their families without public assistance,” she said. “When people have the financial security that an increase in the minimum wage would bring, a raise would bring to most families, then they have the confidence to buy more goods and services, so businesses have more customers, and that spurs economic growth.”
Hassan is in Washington for the National Governors Association’s winter meeting, where she is among the Democratic chief executives pushing for a raise in the federal minimum wage. With the effort stalled in Congress amid Republican opposition, Governors Martin O’Malley of Maryland, Jay Inslee of Washington and Dannel Malloy of Connecticut said they are seeking increases in their states.
Twenty-one states require a minimum wage higher than the federal mandate of $7.25 an hour, according to the U.S. Labor Department.
“We have a drag in our economy because of low-wage jobs that are not creating consumers that can go out and create the demand we need,” Inslee said at a news conference yesterday after 14 Democratic governors met with Obama at the White House. “One of the most important things we can do for economic growth is remove that anchor from our economy and increase these low-wage jobs.”
The movement is becoming a key issue for Democrats in the 2014 elections, when the party is seeking to keep its Senate majority and make inroads against Republicans who control the U.S. House of Representatives and a majority of governors’ offices.
Legislation has been introduced in at least 28 states to boost the minimum wage, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, and Democrats see it as a way to differentiate themselves from Republicans, whose policies they say are focused on assisting the wealthy.
“Prosperity does not trickle down from the top, and it never has,” O’Malley, a potential 2016 presidential candidate, said at the news conference. “It’s time to raise the minimum wage, so we can grow our economy and strengthen the middle class.”