Now that Mitch McConnell's emancipated himself from the exigencies of the Republican primary process, he'll need to figure out how to square his primary-friendly view that Obamacare should be wiped off the books with the complicating fact that over 400,000 Kentuckians obtained insurance through the Affordable Care Act over the past several months.
He just took a new line of obfuscation for a test drive. Assuming it's been accurately characterized, it's incredibly misleading.
"McConnell told reporters Friday that the fate of the state exchange is unconnected to the federal health care law," according to the Associated Press. "Yet the exchange would not exist, if not for the law that created it."
Well, sort of. Obamacare provided for, and required, the creation of an exchange in every state. But it didn't actually build them all. Kentucky, along with 13 other states, decided to build its own exchange (with tons of federal support) and the product—Kynect—has been tremendously successful and just as popular. Now that it exists, its survival doesn't necessarily depend on the ACA remaining the law of the land.
But here's the hidden ball: If McConnell successfully wipes Obamacare off the books next year (which he won't), Kynect might not go away. But the Medicaid expansion will. And the private insurance subsidies will. And the rules allowing and requiring uninsured people of all health statuses to become customers will, too. Insurance carriers will follow. Or else they'll replace the plans they currently offer with much less generous ones. And hundreds of thousands of people will lose their coverage anyhow.
Republicans are well-practiced at pretending to support Obamacare's popular measures. McConnell's gesture continues that tradition. But it's an unusually meaningless and deceptive one.
This post has been updated.
Brian Beutler is a senior editor at The New Republic.