Alison Lundergan Grimes deflects health care law criticism, calls for solutions

syoungman@herald-leader.comNovember 8, 2013 

Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes offered a limited defense Friday of President Barack Obama's health care law without ever saying the president's name.

In her first sit-down interview with a Kentucky-based journalist since entering the U.S. Senate race in July, Grimes told WKYT-TV's Bill Bryant that "Washington politicians made promises, not just to Kentuckians but to all Americans, that if you like your insurance plan, if you like your doctor, you should be able to keep it."

"And it's time for all Washington politicians to keep their word," Grimes said.

Bryant's full interview with Grimes will air this weekend on his "Kentucky Newsmakers" program.

Clearly cognizant of efforts by Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to tie her to a president unpopular in the commonwealth, Grimes did not fully endorse the Affordable Care Act, saying she thought the president's apology this week to those whose current insurance plan will no longer be offered was appropriate.

"I echo and do believe the apology was due and deserved that the president gave to Americans last night, but now it's time to follow that up with action," Grimes said.

While Grimes has been tough to pin down on the polarizing law, she repeated her belief that it was correct for Obama to delay the employer mandate — a requirement that companies with 50 or more employees offer insurance to employees or pay penalties — for a year.

She told Bryant that people whose insurance policies will no longer be offered — 280,000 Kentuckians, according to the Associated Press — should be "grandfathered in" for a period of time.

While Grimes never said the president's name, she did extend a limited defense of the law.

"Instead of finger-pointing, instead of blaming, instead of attacking the presidential branch, let's actually — or the executive branch — let's actually attack the problem that exists here in the commonwealth and find a way for 640,000" to get health insurance, Grimes said.

Under the law, an additional 308,000 Kentuckians are eligible for Medicaid. Another 332,000 uninsured Kentuckians must buy insurance or face tax penalties. Significant premium subsidies are available to many of those 332,000.

As of Friday, Gov. Steve Beshear said 40,572 Kentuckians have enrolled in new health insurance using the state's online system, including 33,561 on Medicaid and 7,011 in a qualified health plan.

The Democratic Secretary of State indicated that she thought efforts to repeal the law were a waste of time.

"Instead of saying that we need to kick our youngsters off of their parents' insurance or denying those with pre-existing conditions coverage, let's make sure that we are stream-lining the regulatory requirements that are found in the Affordable Care Act so that we are easing the burden on the small businesses," Grimes said. "I think instead of Washington finger-pointing, it's time that we actually fix what has gone through both chambers of Congress, what has gone all the way up to the Supreme Court, which was re-litigated through an entire election cycle, it's time that we put Kentuckians first."

Kentucky Newsmakers airs Sunday at 6 a.m. on WKYT and 10 a.m. on The CW Lexington.

Sam Youngman: (502) 875-3793. Twitter: @samyoungman. Blog:

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