Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

August 26, 2013

Ham and politics

McConnell and Beshear spar over the value of Obamacare

The Independent

ASHLAND — Politics has always played a role at the Kentucky Farm Bureau’s annual Kentucky Ham Breakfast at the state fair in Louisville, but politicking is a minor and usually much more civil part of the breakfast than it is at the annual Fancy Farm picnic earlier in August.

Nevertheless, with U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell and Gov. Steve Beshear both attending the breakfast, they could not resist doing a little political sparring. The subject was the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare. While Congress takes a break from doing nothing, McConnell has been touring Kentucky saying Obamacare was a terrible law that had to be repealed. His tour included a brief stop at Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital, where administrators indicated they did not think the law was a bad as the senator claims.  

With both McConnell and Beshear seated at the head table at Thursday’s 50th annual Kentucky County Ham Breakfast, their confrontation was brief but rather heated. Beshear, a Democrat who has often disagreed with fellow Democrat Obama, said the law will improve Kentucky’s health problems, which include some of the nation’s worst rates for cancer, heart disease and diabetes. An off-shoot of the health-care law is the Kentucky Health Benefit Exchange. It will help arrange insurance coverage for hundreds of thousands of uninsured Kentuckians, the governor said.

McConnell, the Senate’s top-ranking Republican, said the law is driving up health insurance premiums and forcing employers to reduce working hours for many employees. McConnell said the law should be repealed.

The exchange caused auctioneer Denetta Allen to remind McConnell and Beshear of the purpose of the breakfast: To auction the fair’s grand champion ham and raise thousands of dollars for charity.

“Enough with the small talk. Let’s have an auction,” Allen told the sellout crowd of 1,600, which included politicians, university presidents, business executives and lobbyists.

The 13.3-pound ham, produced by Harper’s Country Hams in Clinton, was presented on a silver platter adorned with red roses. It was showcased by the reigning Miss Kentucky, Jenna Day, who carried the platter among the bidders to give them a close look at the prized meat.

The winning bid of $350,000 — amounting to about $26,315 per pound — came from the Yum Brands Foundation, the charitable arm of fast-food company Yum Brands Inc., which is headquartered in Louisville. It was the third-highest offer ever from a single bidder and the fifth-highest bid in the auction’s history.

Foundation manager Angela Oswin said it was her first time at the event, and she came away claiming the expensive slab of pig meat. The money goes to the charity of the winning bidder’s choice. The foundation chose the Fund for the Arts, a Louisville-based group that will use the money to allow Kentucky children to see orchestra and theater performances.

As we see it, McConnell should cease talking about repealing Obamacare because it is not going to happen as long as Barack Obama is president. Instead, members of Congress from both parties should look at amending the law to address weaknesses in it. Of course, McConnell knows the law won’t be repealed, but calling for its repeal makes for good politics in Kentucky, which the senator apparently thinks goes well with ham.