LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- The question of whether states will choose to dismantle their health care exchanges if Congress repeals Obamacare is a separate issue from repeal, itself, the campaign of U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell explained on Tuesday, four days after McConnell's comments to that effect rankled Democrats.
At a Friday news conference with fellow U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky), McConnell reiterated his aim to repeal the Affordable Care Act, often referred to as Obamacare, then was asked whether Kynect, Kentucky's state based health insurance exchange, should be dismantled.
"I think that's unconnected to my comments about the overall question here," McConnell said, with no additional explanation.
After an uproar from Democratic supporters of the ACA, McConnell's campaign told WHAS11 that Kynect is a byproduct of the ACA because Kentucky chose to make it a byproduct of the ACA, agreeing to federal monies to help create the exchange, restrictions on insurance plans offered within the exchange and enhanced Medicaid reimbursement rates in the first few years of Kentucky expanding Medicaid eligibility to people with higher annual incomes than traditional Medicaid recipients.
Just as Kentucky, 14 other states and Washington, D.C. decided to create their own health insurance marketplaces rather than their citizens accessing a federal exchange, Obamacare repeal would create another local decision, a McConnell campaign aide explained.
"Eliminating ACA means that folks with pre-existing conditions will struggle to find coverage," said Gov. Steve Beshear (D-Kentucky), in a statement released by the Kentucky Democratic Party. "Young adults won't be able to stay on their parents' coverage, women won't be treated equally by insurers and federal subsidies for Kentuckians will end. Senator McConnell either doesn't understand what the ACA is, or is just trying to mislead Kentucky families for his political benefit at their expense."
"If Obamacare is repealed, Kentucky should decide for itself whether to keep Kynect or set up a different marketplace," said Allison Moore, a McConnell spokeswoman. "But Kentuckians shouldn't have been forced to lose the plans they had and liked, shouldn't have seen their premiums skyrocket, shouldn't have had their Medicare cut, and shouldn't have had their taxes raised because of President Obama and his friends in Washington forced it down their throats."
McConnell said the health care reforms he favored instead of Obamacare can still be accomplished after repeal.
"First of all tear down the walls, the fifty separate silos in which health insurance is controlled and pit all the health insurance companies against each other in a national competitive market," McConnell said at the news conference. "Competition almost always works to keep prices down and quality up."
"(Obamacare) was a big mistake," McConnell said. "We ought to pull it out root and branch and we ought to start over."
During the campaign, primary opponent Matt Bevin argued McConnell had not done enough to block Obamacare and questioned the sincerity of McConnell's opposition to the health care law.
On Friday, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) vouched for McConnell to Bevin's tea party supporters.
"I think the people who identify with the tea party will come out (for McConnell) when they realize what a disaster it would be for Kentucky to have Ms. Grimes," Paul said.
McConnell called Obamacare a jobs killer and "the single worst piece of legislation that's been passed in last 50 years."
Democratic candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes has said she's against repeal and that it doesn't reflect the reality of the estimated 400,000 Kentuckians who have enrolled in Medicaid or subsidized insurance with Kynect.
Though Grimes has recently said that the ACA would have looked different had she been in the Senate when it was approved and needs to be fixed, she has refused to say how she would have voted on Obamacare.
"I think the people of this state are entitled to know the answers to the question. How do you feel about it?" McConnell said. "And I think my opponent is trying to dodge that question. She's been dodging it for a year."