In the Democratic response to President Donald Trump’s address to Congress Tuesday night, former Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear gave a dire warning that Republicans will “rip” health care away from Americans.
Picked to champion the health care law during the GOP effort for repeal, Beshear said that Trump and congressional Republicans “seem determined to rip affordable health insurance away from millions of Americans who most need it.” The GOP plan to repeal Obamacare, Beshear said, “would charge families more for fewer benefits and put insurance companies back in control.”
“Who are these 22 million Americans, including 500,000 people here in Kentucky, who now have health care that didn’t have it before? They aren’t aliens from a distant planet,” he said. “They’re our friends and neighbors.”
As governor of Kentucky during Obamacare’s implementation, Beshear led the state in creating its own Obamacare exchange and expanded Medicaid. Kentucky’s uninsured rate dropped from 20.4 percent in 2013 to 7.8 percent last year, according to a recent Gallup-Healthways survey.
But even Kentucky’s experience with Obamacare hasn’t been all positive. Current Republican Gov. Matt Bevin has fiercely criticized the health care law, and his opposition was noted by Trump in his address. Bevin won election in 2015 after repeatedly promising to repeal Obamacare.
While the uninsured rate in the state has sharply decreased, the private Obamacare market in Kentucky is struggling more than ever. Aetna, UnitedHealthcare and WellCare exited Kentucky’s exchange market at the beginning of this year, leaving Kentuckians in almost half the state’s counties with just one option for health coverage.
Humana, based in Louisville, will pull out of all Obamacare exchanges at the end of 2017, ceasing to offer coverage in the nine Kentucky counties where it’s currently active.
The state created a health insurance co-op with Obamacare funding, the Kentucky Health Cooperative, but it was unable to stay afloat and shut down in 2016.
In his address Tuesday night, Trump preemptively countered Beshear’s speech by citing Bevin’s longstanding opposition to Obamacare.
“Governor Matt Bevin of Kentucky just said Obamacare is failing in his State — it is unsustainable and collapsing,” Trump said. “Obamacare is collapsing — and we must act decisively to protect all Americans. Action is not a choice –- it is a necessity.”
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