By RONNIE ELLIS
CNHI News Service
FRANKFORT — Over the next six months Kentucky will endure a dispiriting “debate” about the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare.
You’ll be inundated with “facts” which support one side or the other. A lot of those facts from both sides will be inaccurate and some will be deliberately misleading.
Many of you have valid reasons for opposing the law and many of you have valid reasons for supporting it. Depending on your philosophical perspective, personal priorities and value system, there are logical reasons for both positions.
Incumbent Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell wants to make the law a central issue in his re-election campaign, trying to hang it and its namesake, President Barack Obama, who is very unpopular in Kentucky, around the neck of his Democratic opponent Alison Lundergan Grimes. He tried to do that last week while taking questions from reporters, saying the law is the “worst piece of legislation in 50 years” and it needs to be repealed.
But the law has worked well in Kentucky and that complicates things for McConnell and Grimes. Grimes tries to split the baby by refusing to say how she would have voted when the law was before Congress but saying she wouldn’t support repeal.
Grimes has suggested she’ll “fix the law” when she gets to the Senate, but that’s disingenuous. First, she’s vague on what she’d change, occasionally talking about the mandate requiring businesses of certain sizes to offer health insurance or pay a fine. Secondly, one U.S. Senator out of 100 isn’t likely to fix anything on his or her own. (Ask Rand Paul.)
McConnell was equally disingenuous about the ACA debate at a press conference last week. The law has allowed roughly 420,000 Kentuckians who previously couldn’t afford insurance to acquire it. Everyone likes some of the law’s provisions, especially prohibiting insurance companies from denying coverage or charging exorbitant premiums for those with pre-existing conditions. And the health exchange set up by Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear – Kynect – has performed well and is viewed as a national model.
When WHAS-TV reporter Joe Arnold pressed McConnell on whether he’d dismantle Kynect and deny 420,000 Kentuckians coverage, McConnell three times responded without actually answering the question. He even managed to criticize Grimes for not answering questions about the law while he declined to answer Arnold’s questions about the law. When Arnold tried a third time, McConnell surprised reporters by saying Kynect isn’t connected to repeal of the ACA.
Later his campaign released a statement “clarifying” that if the ACA is repealed, Kentucky can choose to operate Kynect on its own.
But without the ACA, Kentucky can’t enroll those at 130 percent of the poverty line in Medicaid with the federal government paying 90 percent of the cost, cutting off more than 350,000 of the 420,000. Without the ACA, private insurers won’t offer the same rates to those with pre-existing conditions and many others can’t afford premiums without the federal subsidies. Without the ACA, private insurers won’t have to spend a minimum of 80 percent of premiums on actual benefits.
Grimes and other Democrats like to say they don’t support “Obamacare,” they support “Beshearcare.” They know when the public is polled it gives widely different responses depending on whether the question is about “Obamacare” or “Kynect.” Obamacare and the ACA draw unfavorable majorities in Kentucky while Kynect is viewed positively by a plurality.
But, regardless of what you call it, it’s the same law.
Whether you like the law or dislike it, don’t buy the snake oil the candidates are selling. For good or ill, the Affordable Care Act is Obamacare, which is Kynect.
RONNIE ELLIS writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow CNHI News Service stories on Twitter at www.twitter.com/cnhifrankfort.