By Ronnie Ellis
CNHI News Service
Alison Lundergan Grimes, Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, said Thursday night she’d like to see the deadlines for signing up for the Affordable Care Act extended while problems with the federal website are corrected.
But, she said wouldn’t repeal the law or its individual mandate.
Grimes made the comments in a brief interview prior to the Marion County Democratic Dinner. She is seeking the U.S. Senate seat now held by five-term incumbent Republican Mitch McConnell.
Grimes has said several times she has concerns about the ACA, which has received a bevy of bad publicity for problems with the national exchange website where individuals are supposed to be able to shop for affordable insurance.
She again said, “I have my concerns with the Affordable Care Act,” but added that, “Unlike Mitch McConnell I don’t think you throw the entire act out.” She went on to criticize House Republicans for trying 40 times to repeal the law.
She specifically talked about things she likes about the law: Allowing children up to age 26 to remain on their parents’ policies and prohibiting insurance companies from denying coverage to those with pre-existing conditions.
But those are possible only if essentially everyone participates in the system. When the law was being crafted, insurance companies demanded the mandate in exchange for agreeing to the expanded coverage.
Grimes said the decision by the Obama administration to delay a mandate for businesses to participate for a year “is a good thing, and obviously right now we’re seeing with the launch of the Affordable Care Act the possibility of the individual mandate being delayed.”
She said it is “sensible and reasonable” to delay the individual mandate until problems with the national website are corrected so individuals will have sufficient time to sign up before the government penalizes those who do not have coverage.
But when asked specifically if she would eliminate the individual mandate altogether, Grimes essentially said no.
“This is a law that has been passed by both chambers of Congress,” she said. “It’s gone all the way up to the Supreme Court. We’ve re-litigated this in a presidential election. It’s actually just being implemented, so I think we have to give the facts and figures time to develop. But we must be sure it’s being implemented the appropriate and proper way.”
She went on to say the success of Kentucky’s state-operated exchange, Kynect, shows “there is indeed a hunger out there” for health coverage from those previously unable to afford it.
“Instead of the Washington finger-pointing that is going on, we have to work to fix those issues (with the federal website) so that individuals have the opportunity and flexibility to actually comply with the law,” Grimes said.
McConnell has called the ACA the worst piece of legislation he’s seen during his time in the Senate, and his campaign has called for Grimes to say explicitly whether she supports the law.
His campaign has also tried to paint Grimes as less than friendly to coal, but Grimes didn’t hesitate when asked about her support for the industry Thursday night.
“Coal keeps the lights on in Kentucky,” she said, adding it’s unfair for the federal government to penalize an entire region as it tries to combat environmental damage. “It’s not just an environmental issue; it’s an economic issue.”
Ronnie Ellis writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Reach him at email@example.com. Follow CNHI News Service stories on Twitter at www.twitter.com/cnhifrankfort.