Sen. Mitch McConnell has some explaining to do.
What in the world did he mean last week when he told reporters that repeal of the Affordable Care Act — "root and branch," as he has demanded many times — is "unconnected" to the future of Kynect, Kentucky's health insurance exchange?
Asked specifically if Kynect should be dismantled, McConnell said: "I think that's unconnected to my comments about the overall question."
Nothing could be more connected — or should be more important to Kentucky's senior senator — than the fates of the more than 400,000 Kentuckians who are getting health insurance, many for the first time, and the federal Affordable Care Act, which is making that possible.
Repeal the federal law, which McConnell calls "Obamacare," and the state exchange would collapse.
Kynect could not survive without the ACA's insurance reforms, including no longer allowing insurance companies to cancel policies when people get sick or deny them coverage because of pre-existing conditions, as well as the provision ending lifetime limits on benefit payments. (Kentucky tried to enact such reforms in the 1990s and found out we were too small a market to do it alone.)
Kentucky's exchange also could not survive without the federal funding and tax credits that are helping 300,000 previously uninsured Kentuckians gain access to regular preventive medicine, including colonoscopies, mammograms and birth control without co-pays.
As a result of a law that McConnell wants to repeal, one in 10 of his constituents no longer have to worry that an illness or injury will drive them into personal bankruptcy or a premature grave.
Repealing the federal law would also end the Medicaid expansion that is enabling Kentucky to expand desperately needed drug treatment and mental health services.
Kynect is the Affordable Care Act is Obamacare — even if Kentuckians are confused about which is which.
And, really, it's no wonder that polls show many Kentuckians don't know that Kynect is a direct product of President Barack Obama's landmark law. How can average people be expected to understand if the Senate's Republican leader still hasn't figured it out, or at least is pretending there's no connection?
We asked the McConnell campaign for a clarification and were sent the usual talking points and a statement saying, "If Obamacare is repealed, Kentucky should decide for itself whether to keep Kynect or set up a different marketplace," a suggestion that is unconnected to reality.
Kentuckians are waiting to learn if their five-term senator understands — or cares — how much is at stake.