As U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell presented a revised health care bill Monday in search of enough votes to replace the Affordable Care Act, about 75 people held a protest in Kentucky’s Capitol Rotunda against the latest plan.
“This is wealth care, not health care,” said one of the speakers, Dustin Pugel, a health care researcher for the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy, to loud applause.
Pugel said Kentucky has “the most to lose” with passage of the Senate Republican plan because no other state embraced the expansion of Medicaid under the Obama-era health law more effectively than Kentucky.
The Congressional Budget Office estimated Monday that the legislation backed by McConnell would cause 15 million more people to lose coverage in 2018. By 2026, Medicaid enrollment would drop 16 percent and the number of uninsured would jump by 22 million.
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Most speakers at the “Save Our Health Care Rally” favored two courses of action for Congress — provide funding to stabilize the Affordable Care Act or back a longshot plan by Rep. John Conyers, D-Michigan, that would expand Medicare to “provide comprehensive health coverage for all U.S. residents.” That is known as a single-payer health care system.
Kay Tillow, director of Kentuckians for Single Payer Healthcare, said many developed nations, including Canada and England, have a government-funded health system. “This wealthy country is capable of great medicine,” she said.
Greg Welch, representing Together We Will Bluegrass, said the Senate GOP plan would cause 500,000 Kentuckians to lose health coverage.
“The best way to change the bad politics is to change the bad politicians,” he said.
Colman Eldridge, who was a senior adviser to former Gov. Steve Beshear, said the issue of health care is a moral issue.
“They tell us that it costs too much to give health care for Americans,” said Eldridge.
After the rally, several participants marched down Capital Avenue to the state Republican Party headquarters, which is named for McConnell, to show their displeasure with the Senate GOP plan.
Tres Watson, a spokesman for the state GOP, defended McConnell’s plan.
“Left unchanged, our current Medicaid obligations will bankrupt Kentucky; that is a fact,” Watson said. “Republicans in Frankfort and Washington remain committed to passing reforms that will help the truly needy without placing us on the brink of fiscal ruin.”
McConnell’s Senate Committee sent emails Monday to his supporters, saying the Senate GOP health plan provides the chance to “move forward with smarter health solutions.”
“American families deserve better than Obamacare’s failing status quo — they deserve more options and better care, and that’s just what we’re working to deliver,” he said.