Beshear cites examples of health reform’s benefits, while McConnell keeps up criticism, at Farm Bureau’s ham breakfast

By Al Cross
Kentucky Health News

Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear and Republican U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell squared off on health-care reform for the second straight year at the Kentucky Farm Bureau Federation‘s annual Country Ham Breakfast at the Kentucky State Fair last week.

Beshear, who spoke first, noted that a year earlier he had called for politicians to stop “partisan bickering” about the law and told Kentuckians that they didn’t have to “like the president or the Congress” to investigate its benefits. “Over half a million Kentuckians took my advice,” he said. “Young and old, black and white, singles, families, Democrats, Republicans, city folks, country folks — you went looking for the facts, and what you found was high-quality, low-cost health insurance.”

Beshear noted that Kentucky is second in the nation in the estimated reduction of uninsured population, and gave the reductions in four counties: Christian, from 17 percent to 12 percent; Montgomery, from 18 to 9.5; Laurel, from 18;7 to 10.1; and heavily Republican Monroe, from 21 to 11.5.

He also cited two individual examples: Casey County farmers Frank and Renee McAninch, who couldn’t afford insurance but now pay nothing, who skipped doctor visits, ignored health concerns and paid “outrageous out-of-pocket costs;” and Joe Paul Mattingly of Marion County, a state Farm Bureau director who found “cheaper, better insurance” on the state health-insurance exchange.

Beshear said Frank McAninch had skin cancer removed, and Mattingly is not receiving a subsidy but is paying 20 percent less for coverage than before. “As Joe Paul said, he chose to be part of the solution, not part of the problem,” Beshear said, adding that critics of the law should do likewise.

McConnell was having none of it. Noting that Beshear didn’t use the word “Obamacare,” the senator said, “He just doesn’t want to say it, and I don’t blame him.”

McConnell delivered his usual litany about the law — its cuts in payments to health-care providers, its taxes on medical devices and insurance policies, and the higher premiums, co-payments and deductibles being paid by many people.

Citing a study by the Congressional Budget Office, McConnell said Obamacare “will cost 2.5 million jobs.” The study says the predicted reduction, through 2024, will come “almost entirely because workers will choose to provide less labor,” not because jobs will be eliminated.

As for the Medicaid expansion that is responsible for about three-fourths of the 521,000 people with Kynect coverage, McConnell said, “I do worry about our state government and its ability to meet these commitments in the future.”

Beshear has cited studies predicting that the expansion will pay for itself by expanding the health-care industry and creating jobs. Republicans have said they don’t believe those predictions but generally have been unwilling to say that the expansion should be ended, which would leave hundreds of thousands of people without coverage. McConnell has said his criticism of the law is “not connected” to the state insurance exchange.

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