Some Clarity On What Mitch McConnell Wants For Kentucky's Obamacare Exchange

Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell addresses the media during a press conference following McConnell's victory in the republica
Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell addresses the media during a press conference following McConnell's victory in the republican primary Friday, May 23, 2014, in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)

WASHINGTON –- Since the first and only debate in the Kentucky Senate race, there’s been some speculation on what exactly Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) wants to see done about Kentucky’s newly created health insurance exchange.

The exchange, called Kynect, has proven successful in Kentucky. But since it is a creation of Obamacare -– the health care law that nearly every Republican wants repealed -- McConnell has been a touch cagey about how he envisions its future. During the Oct. 13 debate, he referred to Kynect as “a website” whose creation was funded by a “$200-and-some-odd-million grant from the federal government.” That money has since been spent, the senator said, but added that if Kentuckians wanted to keep the website in place, they were welcome to.

“The website can continue,” McConnell said.

But Kynect isn’t just a website, as the minority leader described it. It’s an exchange where different insurance companies can offer plans for consumers, many of whom will be given tax subsidies to help purchase those plans.

McConnell's answer was also confusing given that it was more measured than his usual response to questions about the Affordable Care Act. Indeed, at another point in the debate, McConnell said that his preference was to repeal Obamacare “root and branch." By showing comfort with letting the Kynect website continue, he seemed to be signaling a drift towards the ideological middle.

But if McConnell was fine keeping the website, would he also be willing to let people keep the federal assistance that helps them purchase coverage offered on that website?

The Huffington Post asked the McConnell campaign that very question the day after the debate. We asked the campaign the same question twice more that day. Then, we posed the question to them seven more times over the subsequent nine days. We also called the campaign twice. The campaign never responded.

McConnell’s Senate office did, however, extend the courtesy of a reply. And the answer was fairly straightforward. A spokesman for the minority leader confirmed that he wants to repeal the full health care law, including not just the federal subsidies for people purchasing on exchanges like Kynect, but also the mandates and taxes on high-cost plans and other features of the legislation.

The office added, however, that McConnell doesn't want to simply leave it at full repeal. He wants to replace the Obamacare model, a "broken system," as the aide put it, with "common-sense reforms that would lower costs for Americans." It remains to be determined what that replacement would be.



Mitch McConnell & Alison Lundergan Grimes