REMINDER: Mitch McConnell proposes raising Kentucky's taxes by $700 Million+!!! (UPDATED x4)

Hat Tip To: 
Greg Sargent

NOTE: I originally posted this back on May 29th, but it seems appropriate to bring it to the front page again given the new ad that McConnell has just started running.

I am Jack's complete lack of surprise.

Greg Sargent and Glenn Kessler (both at the Washington Post) have sort of tag-team pieces this morning about Mitch McConnell's ongoing verbal gymnastics as he continues to try and say "I will repeal Obamacare completely" and "We should keep Kynect intact" simultaneously, even though "Obamacare" and "Kynect" are both "The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act."

As you know, Mitch McConnell has been struggling to articulate his position on the Affordable Care Act, ever since he laughably declared that the fate of Kentucky Kynect — the state exchange that has signed up over 400,000 people for coverage and is more popular than the hated Obamacare — is “unconnected” to his push to repeal the law. His subsequent clarification only obfuscated matters more.

Now, however, the McConnell campaign has issued a new statement to Post fact checker Glenn Kessler that, in effect, abandons his commitment to repeal. In the statement, a McConnell spokesman suggests he might largely retain the Medicaid expansion, which has expanded coverage to hundreds of thousands of Kentuckians.

McConnell is now trying to claim that Kentucky would simply keep the ACA's Medicaid expansion in place (without giving any indication of how the state would pay for it, since Medicaid enrollees from the ACA expansion are fully covered by federal money for the first few years, while the state would have to cover a good 30% of non-ACA Medicaid).

[McConnell campaign spokesperson] Benton responded: “Medicaid existed before Obamacare and will exist if we are able to repeal it. Obamacare loosened eligibility requirements for Medicaid recipients, and in the process, helped find many who were already eligible but no enrolled.  These people would remain eligible even after a repeal.  The federal government does allow states flexibility in setting requirements and Kentucky could be able to keep many of the newly enrolled in the program if we decided to.”

Both pieces are worth a read. As Sargent concludes, 

His [McConnell's] position is still gibberish: He still hasn’t taken a position on whether he would actually support doing that, but barring further clarification, let’s just say he wants Kentucky residents to think he would, or that hemight. This provides an opening for Alison Lundergan Grimes to continue putting McConnell on the spot, should she choose to. Either way, for all practical purposes, this is a significant political concession.

I'll put it more bluntly: McConnell is utterly full of crap. He knows it, Grimes knows it, the Kentucky media knows it; he's just hoping that the voters of Kentucky are too stupid to know it.

As for my own Great Conservative Kynect Challenge from a week or so ago, needless to say, it's been a complete "failure" in the sense that not a single right-wing pundit has taken me up on it.

I'm shocked, shocked I say!

UPDATE: I should note that even if, theoretically, the ACA were to be repealed but Kentucky were to expand their own Medicaid eligibility levels to keep all 330,000 of those people on the program, the state would have to pay 30% of the cost, vs. the Federal government covering 100% for the first few years.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, Medicaid costs a total of around $5,900 per person in Kentucky. 30% of that is $1,770. Multiply that by 330,000 and the state of Kentucky would have to pony up $584 million per year to keep all those people on the program.

Of course, not all 330,000 of them are "strict ACA expansion"...some were likely already qualified under pre-ACA rules, so the cost to the state for the expansion-specific enrollees might be somewhat less, but the point remains: McConnell provides absolutely no clue as to how the state would pay for it without federal money shoring them up.

UPDATE x2: Thanks to both Sargent, Jason Ralph and Brian Beutler for collectively pointing out another fascinating/idiotic item: Glenn Kessler's question to McConnell's spokesperson was specifically about the ACA's Medicaid expansion (ie, all 330,000 people). The answer appears to be referring only to the "woodworker" enrollees (ie, those who were eligible pre-ACA...which appears to only be around 17,000 people (thanks to Beutler for the link...this also helps me clarify my own Medicaid spreadsheet, as a bonus!).

HOWEVER, since Kessler's QUESTION was about all of the 330,000 people (call it 313,000 if you subtract "woodworkers"), and the ANSWER referred to "Obamacare loosened eligibility requirements for Medicaid recipients", it sure sounds like it's talking about the expansion enrollees as well.

Ultimately, it doesn't matter that much. If re-elected, McConnell a) has no chance of repealing the ACA anyway (which he knows) and b) doesn't give a rat's ass about the 313,000 expansion recipients (That's not just my opinion, it's a fact: He voted against the ACA in the first place and has been pushing hard to repeal the law WITHOUT any plan for expansion enrollees since the moment it was signed into law).

The response is just more word salad. It's a meaningless combination of nouns, verbs, adjectives, conjunctions and pronouns designed to fill up airtime without having any meaning whatsoever. It's like a schizophrenic mashup of a half a dozen Schoolhouse Rock videos.

UPDATE x3: HOLY CATS!

When I changed the title of this to "Is Mitch McConnell proposing raising Kentucky's taxes by $584 Million?", I was being snarky. I didn't honestly think that McConnell, the leader of the Senate Republicans, would be stupid enough to actually publicly propose a massive tax hike of half a billion dollars on the residents of his own home state (one of the poorest in the country, no less)...especially for a Big Gub'ment Social Program, of all things, and certainly not in the middle of an election year in which he was in the toughest campaign of his life!

But judging from this twitter exchange, that appears to be exactly what his campaign is now saying:

@ThePlumLineGS @joesonka @charles_gaba @brianbeutler Okay, Benton says Ky would have to pick up the tab because, of course, Ocare would die

— Glenn Kessler (@GlennKesslerWP) May 29, 2014

Holy crap. That's right: Assuming around 300,000 ACA-expansion-specific Medicaid recipients in Kentucky (the pre-ACA "woodworker" number is up for debate, but appears to be somewhere between 20,000 - 30,000 of the 330,000 total Kynect enrollees), Mitch McConnell has just called for at least a $500 million [$700 million; see below] tax on the people of Kentucky to cover the cost of keeping those 300,000 people on Medicaid.

Wow. Imagine that.

UPDATE x4 10/13/14: It's important to note that the $584 Million tax hike McConnell is proposing is only for the Medicaid portion of the Kynect enrollees. If he doesn't want to harm the 90,000+ private policy enrollees in the program, most of whom are receiving federal tax credits, he'll have to find a way to pony up an additional $150 million or so each year.