Obamacare will work, Beshear promises on ‘Meet the Press’

By Al Cross
Kentucky Health News

Citing Kentucky examples, Gov. Steve Beshear promised a national audience on “Meet the Press” Sunday morning that the federal health-reform law will work, despite problems with the federal insurance exchange and doubts that the overall law will work.

“I’ll guarantee you we’re gonna make it work, because it’s good for the American people,” said Beshear, who is Democrats’ national poster boy for Obamacare because Kentucky is the only Southern state to expand Medicaid under the law and create its own health-insurance exchange, which appears to be working well.

Beshear (AP photo)

The governor said more than 26,000 Kentuckians have obtained coverage through the exchange, which has had more than 300,000 visitors. He conceded to interviewer David Gregory that 21,000 of the enrollees are in Medicaid, but said another 10,000 people “are in the process of choosing” private insurance plans. He said Medicaid enrollment is done much more quickly.

To another question, Beshear said “about a third” of Kentucky’s enrollees are under 35, “and that’s what’s going to happen all over this country.” Obama administration officials have said the key to making the program work is enrollment by young, healthy people who are not now insured, to make up for increased costs, such as covering people with pre-existing conditions.

In reply to another question, Beshear said the cost of coverage would stay low enough to justify the law.

The governor repeated his rationale for embracing Obamacare: Kentucky’s horrible health status. “The only way we’re gonna get ourselves out of the ditch is some sort of transformational tool,” he said. “That’s what the Affordable Care Act is gonna do for us.”

Also on the NBC show, Gov. John Kasich of Ohio cited similar reasons (covering the working poor, drug addicts and the mentally ill, including some veterans) for becoming the eighth Republican governor to expand Medicaid to people with incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. But that doesn’t mean he supports the rest of Obamacare.

“The rollout is the least of the problem here,” Kasich said, referring to the federal exchange’s website problems. “The problem with Obamacare is, it doesn’t get to higher health care costs, which are the nub of the problem.” He said it will “drive up costs for the vast majority of Ohioans” discourage employers from having payrolls of 50 or more, the threshold for the mandate to cover employees.

Kasich, a former congressman, said President Obama “needs to figure out how to get some bipartisan support to move forward,” but acknowledged that Washington politicians talk past each other in a polarized environment, while governors like him and Beshear could get in a room and “figure out what’s good, what’s bad, how do we fix it.”

In NBC’s Washington studio, Gregory pressed Beshear for his views on the federal exchange’s problems. The governor said it would be fixed, adding, “The advice I would give the news media and the critics up here is take a deep breath. . . . This is gonna take some time to get done, and everybody needs to chill out.” Here’s an NBC video of the segment with Beshear and Kasich:

Kentucky Health News is an independent news service of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, based in the School of Journalism and Telecommunications at the University of Kentucky, with support from the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.

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