As we start a new year, let’s look ahead to some of the local and national issues that will be making headlines in 2014.
On the national front, the recently approved budget deal puts questions of the national debt and spending aside until 2015. But 2014 will see the continuing rollout of the Affordable Care Act, better known as “Obamacare.”
Problems associated with signing up for health coverages through the exchanges likely will fade as website glitches are ironed out. But it is likely that more problems stemming from the law itself will manifest as the year goes on. Will young, healthy people sign up for coverage in the numbers required to offset the cost of insuring older, sicker Americans? In 2015, the delayed employer mandate will kick in. As 2014 draws to a close, we may see many Americans receiving notice that they will lose their employer-provided insurance as some businesses find the cost of paying the fines is less than that to pay for Obamacare-compliant coverage.
A major question to be answered in 2014 is whether Americans’ anger over Obamacare and governmental mismanagement in general will result in a shift in power in Congress at the mid-term elections. In November, all seats in the House of Representatives and one-third of Senate seats are in play. Will the Republicans extend their control of the House and win the Senate? Or will Democrats reverse the trend and recapture the House? Stay tuned.
In Massachusetts and particularly in New Hampshire, this national battle will play out in the race for two Senate seats -- those currently held by Democrats Jeanne Shaheen in New Hampshire and Ed Markey in Massachusetts.
Shaheen, first elected in 2008, already faces Republican challenges in former state Sen. Jim Rubens of Hanover and conservative activist Karen Testerman of Franklin. Also said to be considering runs on the Republican side are former Congressman Charles Bass, former Sen. Bob Smith and former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown.