On the campaign trail, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was still blasting the new health-care law as unsalvageable. At the White House, President Obama was still apologizing for the botched federal Web site. But in a state where the rollout has gone smoothly, and in a county that is one of the poorest and unhealthiest in the country, Courtney Lively has been busy signing people up: cashiers from the IGA grocery, clerks from the dollar store, workers from the lock factory, call-center agents, laid-off coal miners, KFC cooks, Chinese green-card holders in town to teach Appalachian students.
But let's not overlook Kentucky, where Gov. Steve Beshear (D) has committed himself to implementing the law -- and "Obamacare" is being implemented so effectively, it's starting to make an enormous difference in the lives of families that need the help. Stephanie McCrummen published a terrific piece over the weekend on developments in Breathitt County.
The piece offers great details of Lively's heroic work, connecting people with the health care benefits to which they're entitled. Read the piece to appreciate all the anecdotes, but note that Lively, who's been signing people up since early October, told McCrummen locals have been "pouring in" to her office, overjoyed with the prospect of receiving accessible medical care.
As Paul Krugman noted, reading the piece, we're reminded anew "why we need health reform." Indeed, we're introduced in the article to struggling rural Americans who were simply being left behind before the Affordable Care Act became law.
But there's also a political angle to this -- Kentucky is home to none other than Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) who says he desperately wants to destroy the law that's now helping so many of his constituents.
It puts the Republican incumbent in an exceedingly odd position: he's going to spend the next year telling Kentucky families, "Please vote for me so I can fight to take away your health care benefits." And if he doesn't say this loud enough, McConnell runs the risk of losing to his primary challenger.
Indeed, two weeks ago, the Senate Minority Leader held a press conference and was asked more than once which parts of the law, if any, stand to help the uninsured in Kentucky and elsewhere. McConnell refused to answer, choosing instead to simply say the law "should be repealed," over and over again.
Remember, the Republican Party is the only major political party in any industrial democracy on the planet that opposes universal health care benefits for its citizens -- and Kentucky offers a reminder as to why this is.
Why would struggling folks in a rural area, thrilled to have insurance for the first time, vote for someone whose principal goal is taking away their health security on purpose?