CNN's Gupta visits Lexington to discuss health care

mmeehan1@herald-leader.comOctober 2, 2013 

Some 24 hours after Americans could sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, "Kentucky is doing better than most," said Dr. Sanjay Gupta, chief medical correspondent for CNN.

Gupta was in Lexington's Triangle Park most of Wednesday. While here, he interviewed Gov. Steve Beshear and talked to people on the street. A tour bus bearing his face on the side and a satellite truck labeled "CNN" were parked near the park.

Gupta said he was surprised to learn that some 90,000 people went on the state's health care website, Kynect.Ky.Gov, and that about 2,000 signed up for health insurance on the first day it was available.

The numbers reflect the robust interest in the Affordable Care Act, he said. Some states, such as Oregon, announced before Tuesday — the day signups began for health insurance — that it would not be ready to enroll. While Kentucky's site had some technical problems that might have limited enrollment, some states were unable to complete any applications, Gupta said.

Not all states released numbers to show the website and call center activity during the first 24 hours, he added.

Gupta is on a three-state bus tour that started Tuesday in Greenville, S.C., swung through Lexington on Wednesday and will end Thursday in Baltimore. He and the crew really are traveling by bus.

Gupta said he was interested in Kentucky because it is one of seven states — and the only Southern state — to create its own health insurance program, and it also has a unique political landscape.

He wanted to learn what message was resonating with Kentuckians as the state's two Republican senators, Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul, oppose health care reform while Beshear, a Democrat, supports it, he said.

"It is a state divided," he said. "With people getting so many mixed messages, we wanted to see how they behave." When told Kentucky's state motto, "United we stand, divided we fall," Gupta said, "That is ironic."

People looking at the state from afar count Kentucky as a red state where most oppose Obamacare, he said. But after interviewing Beshear, Gupta described the governor as "a staunch defendant of what he believes in."

And, Gupta said, most of the people he talked to in downtown Lexington seemed to support health care reform.

Considering it is human nature to put off making difficult choices until a deadline looms (the deadline to get health insurance by Jan. 1 is Dec. 15), "I was actually surprised as many people paid attention yesterday as they did," Gupta said

His interviews will air on CNN at 4:30 p.m. Saturday and 7:30 a.m. Sunday.

Mary Meehan: (859) 231-3261. Twitter: @bgmoms. Blog: BluegrassMoms.com.

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