U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders invaded U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell’s home state Sunday night to lambaste the Senate majority leader’s plan to replace the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
Sanders, an independent from Vermont who ran unsuccessfully for president last year, told about 2,100 people at a free “Care Not Cuts Rally” at the Northern Kentucky Convention Center that states like Kentucky that voted for President Trump and other Republicans will be punished the most by the McConnell plan.
Sanders delivered a similar message Sunday afternoon in Morgantown, W.Va.
McConnell, whose plan is stalled in the U.S. Senate, had no immediate comment, but Tres Watson, a spokesman for the Kentucky Republican Party, said, “Sen. Sanders’ visit is just more proof that the leaders of the Kentucky Democratic Party are continuing to move their party away from Kentucky families and towards coastal liberal elites.”
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In his 46-minute speech in Covington, Sanders, 75, said he is not the only one calling for the defeat of the GOP plan.
He noted that the AARP, the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association, March of Dimes and the American Nurses Association are among the medical groups opposing the bill.
Sander said, “I don’t get it” why McConnell opposes the current law, which has reduced the uninsured rate for adults in Kentucky from 20.4 percent in 2013 to just 7.8 percent in 2016 — the largest reduction in America.
Today, as a result of the ACA, only 4 percent of children in Kentucky are uninsured, said Sanders.
Also, he said, when Kentucky is struggling with an opioid addiction epidemic, there is no question that if McConnell’s legislation were to be passed, thousands of Kentuckians would no longer be able to receive the treatment they desperately need.
The bottom line, said Sanders, is that the GOP plan would throw 22 million Americans off of health insurance, cut Medicaid by almost $800 billion, substantially raise premiums for older workers and defund Planned Parenthood.
Sanders predicted that Planned Parenthood offices in Louisville, Lexington and Cincinnati might be forced to close if the GOP bill becomes law.
Once the GOP bill is defeated, said Sanders, he will file a bill to provide “Medcare for all — a single-payer system.” That line drew the loudest applause of the evening.
Sanders was introduced to the raucous crowd by Covington Mayor Joe Meyer, a former state Democratic senator who said, “Health care should not be a function of the thickness of your wallet.”
Peggy Thompson of Erlanger said she attended the rally because she is concerned about health care.
She said she tried to get Sanders elected president last year and will keep on trying.
John Stephenson of Independence said he does not usually agree with Sanders, “but I do believe he is an honest man.”
Before Sanders’ speech, several advocates for Obamacare staged a rally across the Roebling Suspension Bridge.