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Ad Audit: Conservative Group’s New Ad Targets Kuster’s Support of Affordable Care Act

Sara Plourde

 The New Hampshire arm of Americans for Prosperity continues to pound away at Democrats over the Affordable Care Act.

The conservative non-profit's latest volley is a new television ad attacking New Hampshire’s 2nd District Congresswoman Ann McLane Kuster for her support of so-called Obamacare.

The 30-second spot, scheduled for a three-week run on cable and broadcast stations, links Kuster to familiar criticisms of the law, including its reliance on a single New Hampshire insurer, Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, as well as Anthem’s decision to exclude 10 hospitals from its coverage network.

The ad does not repeat the assertion, made in a previous television ad by Americans for Prosperity, that the ACA has increased premiums by 90 percent. That claim has been widely disputed.

The latest spot instead leans heavily on a comment Kuster made in November. According to an account in the New York Times, Kuster replied to questions about the botched rollout of the ACA by saying, “Patience is a virtue, and Americans have it in short supply.”

The ad repeats the first half of that quote twice before wrapping up with the narrator saying, “Tell Congresswoman Kuster Obamacare isn’t working and our patience is gone.”

Kuster wasn’t in office when Congress passed the Affordable Care Act in 2009. But like most Democrats -including her colleagues in the New Hampshire delegation, 1st District Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen - she has been largely supportive.

In February, during an appearance on NHPR’s The Exchange, Kuster acknowledged problems with the law and called the technological failures that marred its rollout “a disaster.” But she said she was “dead set against” its repeal.

Kuster has, however, bucked her party in the House by supporting Republican-led efforts to rollback two provisions of the ACA.

In November, she was one of 39 Democrats to support the Keep Your Health Plan Act of 2013, which allowed Americans to keep insurance coverage that didn’t meet the ACA’s minimum requirements for another year. Democrats who opposed the bill said it threatened to undermine the law.

Kuster also voted with 223 Republicans and 27 Democrats in March to delay the penalty for failing to comply with the individual mandate until 2015.

After Kuster told The Exchange’s Laura Knoy that she supported President Obama’s decision to delay the mandate on small businesses, critics pointed to Kuster’s vote against a Republican bill that would have done the same thing and accused her of flip-flopping.

But as a Politifact analysis noted, Kuster didn’t oppose the Republican bill because she opposed delaying the mandate: “Rather, she voted against it because the bill was symbolic and tantamount to a stunt, since the White House had already delayed that provision of the law.” They rated it a "half flip."

Kuster, Shea-Porter and Shaheen all face potentially difficult paths to re-election this year, and Americans for Prosperity has already made it clear it will spend heavily on television ads attacking them for their support of the ACA.

The group has reportedly dropped more than $3 million on ads in New Hampshire since December – about half of it focusing on Kuster and more than $1 million on Shaheen.  

More than 40,000 New Hampshire residents have enrolled in health plans through the ACA. But, according to a recent poll, the law is unpopular among Granite Staters: 57.5 percent disapprove, according to Dartmouth College’s 2014 State of the State poll.

In a statement, Americans for Prosperity State Director Greg Moore said Kuster’s “unwavering support" of the ACA is partly responsible for its lack of popularity in New Hampshire. 

“This law is tremendously unpopular with the public because of the negative consequences that are hammering the working families of the state,” Moore said. “It’s time for Representative Kuster to admit that this terribly flawed law is broken and stop the harm it is doing to so many citizens.”

Kuster's campaign manager, Pat Devney, said in an email that the Americans for Prosperity ad is "yet another attempt by a Tea Party Super PAC to distract Granite Staters from the Republican Party's right-wing, extremist agenda.

"Congresswoman Kuster is actively working to improve the Affordable Care Act," Devney said. "She is fighting to increase competition in the marketplace and supports legislation to make health care more affordable for Granite State small businesses."

This story was updated with a response from the Kuster campaign.

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