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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

by Evan McMurry, Mediaite.

In last night’s Kentucky Senate debate, Democratic challenger Alison Grimes declined again to answer whether she voted for President Barack Obama, while Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) called Kentucky’s health care portal Kynect “fine” and suggested Kentuckians could keep their their state exchange.

In the epistemologically agnostic world of national political media, these two are both “gaffes” of equal weight:

Nonsense. Grimes’ refusal to answer the question certainly doesn’t speak well of her as a candidate, but it’s a political mistake, not a policy one. McConnell’s comments, on the other hand, constitute a deliberate obfuscation on the health care policy of his state.

McConnell said Monday night:

“Kentucky Kynect is a website. It was paid for by a grant from the federal government. The website can continue, but in my view the best interests of the country would be achieved by pulling out Obamacare root and branch.”


When pressed on whether he would like to keep Kynect, McConnell continued to argue that Kentucky officials could continue the state exchange “if they’d like to.”

“States can decide whether or to expand Medicaid or not,” he said. “It’s a state decision.”

When asked again if he personally was endorsing the continuation of the state exchange, McConnell responded, “Yeah, I think it’s fine to have a website.”

As multiple critics have pointed out, that makes literally no sense. Obamacare is the foundation of Kynect, and repealing it would end federal subsidies on the health plan enrollment side and federal funding on the Medicaid side, leaving Kentucky with a shell of its health care expansion. This is to say nothing of the individual mandate, the fulcrum of the law that keeps insurance pools diversified and rates controlled. The law, the Medicaid expansion, and the exchanges are all complementary and mutually reinforcing, something McConnell only pretends not to understand.

What’s behind McConnell’s awkward attempt to like the website but not the policy that enfranchised it? It has entirely to do with Obamacare’s undisputed success in the state. Kentucky was one of the few red states to actively participate in both the health exchanges and the Medicaid expansion, with the former netting almost 100,000 enrollees and the latter signing up over 300,000, newly insuring about 10 percent of the state. Kynect’s functionality has been held up as a template for states like Oregon that are saddled with dysfunctional websites.

The success is mirrored in the popularity. Obamacare is underwater with Kentucky residents 33-57, but Kynect is popular, as is Governor Steve Beshear, who spearheaded it.

This has put McConnell in a tight spot. His attempts to downplay the ACA’s success in his state have exploded in his face, meaning he must find a way to be for a state program but against the national law it implements. Hence he praised the “website” at the Kentucky debate but squirmed out of the larger policy implications. That’s not a “gaffe”; it’s a blatant refusal to honestly address the future of his constituents’ health care.

This article originally appeared on MediaiteYou may also enjoy these Mediaite stories:

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Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr


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  • Lynda Groom

    Of course his comments were not ‘gaffe’s.’ They represent his view very well, which is actually the problem with Mitch. He’s been in office so long that he actually believes his own nonsense. It is way past time for a change, and I hope the citizens of Kentucky have finally caught on to his endless hyperbole.

    • Russell Byrd

      Mitch graduated from the University of Louisville, and is known as a rabid fan of his alma mater’s teams. He actually phoned in to an University of Kentucky’s sports program, which is of course, U Of L’s most contentious rival. Mitch claimed that he loved both teams equally, which was met with a surprising amount of resistance by the commentators. Under questioning, about that claim and several others, Mitch became rather agitated. After he rang off, the commentators actually had a discussion about his lack of truth and his agitation. At one point, one of the guys actually called Mitch a “JERK.” That, about a sitting Senator on a statewide program!

      Kentucky is a very much divided state. On the one hand, that have some of the most gifted and intellectual people in the Nation, on the other hand, and sadly, Kentucky has even more uneducated, ignorant people. Those latter, and business interests, especially coal and real estate, are what Mitch has always depended on to keep his seat..

  • DAK27

    Mitch if first and foremost a liar. Second, he is a Republican and being a liar makes him a GOOD Republican. Vote this bum out in November!

  • Dominick Vila

    Like most politicians, McConnell is walking both sides of the fence on this issue, hoping his constituents will not notice the duplicity of his stand on the ACA. Sadly, people like him are likely to be re-elected by solid majorities, not because he and others deserve it, but because for some people there are things that are much more important to them than obstructionism, lies, hyperbole, and duplicity. In fact, for some of them, all those negatives become a plus if they were used to derail the implementation of the agenda put forth by a man they hate.

  • Bren Frowick

    McConnell isn’t just a liar; he’s a BAD liar.

    • mah101

      In GOP land, you don’t need to lie well

      • Faraday_Cat

        Yep…you just have to lie “right”…

      • ralphkr

        So true, mah101, you only have to lie right…wing, that is.

  • jAMES

    the fact that mitch speaks from both sides of his mouth and supports noone but himself is obvious. living in tenn i see many people from kentucky in my practice and always surprised that none of them claim to have voted for him yet he is constantly the winner.Are that many kentukians that ashamed of him in public yet keep electing him or are they all as big a liar as he is.

  • pmbalele

    TPs and Repubs exposed now. I knew there was something wrong why we have Ebola potentially spreading in this country. Ebola spread is result of TPs and Repubs in Congress that cut funding for Ebola vaccine research just to save on deficit in 2011. Now this Nation is in horrible danger that some people, especially the poor will die of Ebola caused by TPs and Repubs selfishness for cutting research. I am still told some people still want to vote for TPs and Repubs back in Congress and senate when you now know these don’t care for safety of people this nation. TPs and Repubs are monsters.

  • Thomas Martin

    Why would Grimes say who she voted for and give the repubs a photo op for one of their attack commercials?

  • mah101

    Come on, cut Mitch some slack. Remember, this is the guy who filibustered his own legislation.

  • 1standlastword

    The question in my mind is do Kentuckians understand the dilemma/ bind Mitch is in? I wish I could be so confident

    • latebloomingrandma

      I think many Kentuckians love KYnect, but are so happy it’s not Obamacare. McConnell is just playing into this falsehood. Heck, he probably started it.

      • 1standlastword

        Sorta like they like PPACA but not Obamacare…LOL!

  • Independent1

    I didn’t listen to the debate, so I’m not sure what Alison brought out with respect to her support for Obamacare. From my perspective, she should have used the success that the red state of Arizona has benefited from with their expansion of Medicaid which should have put Mitch, back on his heels – Arizona is saving millions of dollars in reduced hospital reimbursements; profitability of Arizona hospitals has improved and analysts have projected that 15,000 new jobs should be created in Arizona by 2016 because of the expansion. What could Mitch have possibly said to counter that and justify his efforts to repeal ACA???

    From the Daily Kos:

    Arizona hospitals already reaping benefit of Medicaid expansion

    Gov. Jan Brewer’s decision to harangue her Republican legislature to accept Medicaid expansion is paying off for the whole state of Arizona, but especially its hospitals. A new report from the Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association says that uncompensated care has been reduced 31 percent in the last four months compared to the same period last year.

    Uncompensated care is both charity care provided by hospitals and bad debts they have to write off, and in Arizona it spiked after the state decided to drop the childless adult population from Medicaid in July 2011. The numbers of childless adults in Medicaid has rebounded 247 percent since the decision to expand Medicaid and allow them back in, which obviously makes a big difference in the amount of uncompensated care hospitals are providing. One, Tucson Medical Center, reports a 45-percent drop.

    That’s money that the state doesn’t have to try to come up with to reimburse hospitals to help keep them afloat. The business school at Arizona State University estimated that the expansion would bring more than 15,000 jobs to the state by 2016, increase state revenues by over $2.8 billion in the next three years and increase personal disposable income by more than $1.6 billion. The decline in uncompensated care is just a drop in the bucket for what Medicaid expansion is likely to do for Arizona.