LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- Despite criticism of Sen. Mitch McConnell's suggestion last month that the fate of Kentucky's health insurance exchange is not connected to his efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the McConnell campaign is reasserting the separation.
"The repeal of Obamacare has absolutely nothing to do with the existence of Kynect," said Josh Holmes, a senior adviser to the McConnell re-election campaign.
"I don't really understand how he can make a statement like that," said Jim Moore, a Louisville small business owner and former Democratic congressional candidate who supports the ACA.
Holmes and Moore were both interviewed at WHAS11, where they appeared on The Powers That Be, a political news program which airs on Saturday mornings.
At issue is what would happen to Kentucky's health insurance exchange if federal Obamacare funding goes away upon repeal. U-S tax dollars are paying for insurance subsidies and an expansion of who is eligible to collect Medicaid, two initiatives Kentucky likely can't afford without Obamacare.
"Obamacare is the building," Moore said, "and Kynect is the door through which you walk to get to it. So, what are you going to do, are you going to destroy the building and leave the doorway?"
"It seems like the biggest enthusiasts of Obamacare are the ones who know the least about it," Holmes said, repeating the McConnell position that Kentucky had a choice whether to launch Kynect and expand Medicaid, and can still decide what to do in the event of repeal.
"I think that what's important is to actually to try to figure out what the finances of the program are," Holmes said, And what are the reforms that we can make to make health care more affordable?
It doesn't make any sense to try to subsidize unaffordable health care. It's unsustainable."
"What does make sense is try to do reforms, market based reforms like buying across state lines, for example, which would lower the price of health care," Holmes explained, "medical liability reform which would lower the price of healthcare, all of those things would make insurance much more affordable than it is today and allow more people into the marketplace."
Holmes said a "safety net," is still needed.
The McConnell campaign asserts Kynect was a local decision - and the exchange will be on its own in successive years after it received $230 million in federal dollars to launch its website, a website they argue is merely a store where consumers can buy whatever insurance plans are available. For now that's Obamacare policies.
"Now you might remember there were tens of thousands of people in Kentucky who were thrown off of their plans," Holmes said, "who have to enter Kynect or the exchanges to find another plan because their plan no longer existed."
While Holmes said Obamacare ought to be replaced with targeted reforms, Moore argues the only way to reform the health care system is what Obama did --- through a massive program.
"If you reduce the scale on which that operates, for instance if you take away the individual mandate, then how are we going to cover everyone adequately, the only way to do this is on a large national scale, Moore said.
It's a tricky debate for both McConnell and Alison Lundergan Grimes in the U.S. Senate race, the Grimes campaign only saying Mcconnell is trying to destroy Kynect. Though Grimes is not rushing to defend Obamacare, Moore said he believes Grimes supports the ACA.
"Frankly yes," Moore said. "I think that's the way this political season is going. and part of that is because of the poisonous climate because of the fact McConnell has succeeded in making Obamacare a dirty word.
"If you want to know the politics of Obamacare," Holmes said, "just consider the fact that I am sitting here talking to you and you can't get anybody in the Alison Lundergan Grimes camp to come on and discuss their view of it. We feel very comfortable with where we're at with repeal and replace of Obamacare."
"I would really like to see (Grimes) step up and be more vociferous in her defense of it," Moore said because Obamacare is working and I'm standing here in front of you as proof that it does."
Moore explained that by working through Kynect, his small business is saving hundreds of dollars each month.