By Al Cross and Megan Ingros
Kentucky Health News
U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell kept attacking federal health-care reform and challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes gave her strongest defense of it yet as the candidates held the closest thing to a debate Wednesday, Aug. 20, at Kentucky Farm Bureau headquarters in Louisville.
Grimes was the most detailed she has been in a public discussion about health-care reform. Grimes indicated that she supports Kynect, the state health-insurance exchange, created by Gov. Steve Beshear and funded by Obamacare, where people sign up for Medicaid or buy insurance.
“For the first time ever, because of our governor, 500,000 Kentuckians are able to go to the doctor, their kids get checkups before school, and many of them are farm families in rural Kentucky,” she said. “The law isn’t perfect but we have to work to fix it. . . . We have to work to streamline the Affordable Care Act, to make sure there aren’t over-burdensome regulations on our businesses, especially our small businesses.”
Grimes endorsed President Obama’s delay in the law’s employer mandate and suggested that he should also live up to his promise that “If you like your doctor, you can keep it.”
She actually appeared to be referring to keeping old insurance policies, because her next words were, “We should be working to extend that grandfathering clause so we live up to that promise that Washington politicians made to Kentuckians. . . . It requires a senator, though, who doesn’t want to repeal root and branch the access to health care that Kentuckians just got for the first time.”
McConnell answered, “She won’t use the words, but she supports Obamacare, he single worst piece of legislation that’s been passed in the last half-century.” He said Obamacare is going to cost jobs and it “ought to be pulled out root and branch and we ought to start over.”
McConnell said what should have been done is “truly national competition among health-insurance companies to keep prices down and quality up,” as well as “a national medical malpractice standard to bring some sanity to the litigation lottery that’s confronting every health-care provider in America; and thirdly, we need to allow small businesses to form groups for the purpose of more purchasing power on the open market.”
Citing a study by the Congressional Budget Office, McConnell said the law will only cover 10 million of the 40 million people who were uninsured, and will “cost 2.5 million jobs.” The study says the predicted reduction, through 2024, will come “almost entirely because workers will choose to provide less labor,” not because jobs will be eliminated.
McConnell said Kentucky will not be able to afford its expansion of the Medicaid program, which covers about three-fourths of the newly insured. “She applauds it,” he said. “It’s fine for the governor because the first three years the federal government will pick up 100 percent of the tab, but after that, the state’s going to be in serious financial problems.”
Beshear has cited studies showing that the Medicaid expansion will pay for itself by expanding the health-care industry and creating jobs, but Republicans say they are skeptical of that.
A video of the debate is available on the Farm Bureau website, www.kyfb.com, until Sept 20. The specific site is http://new.livestream.com/accounts/7542430/events/3309694.