Welcome to Lexington, Vice President Mike Pence. Hope you get to enjoy the descent. That view never gets old.
We understand that your touch down for a “listening session” is not so much about listening as rallying divided Senate Republicans behind a bill that is deeply unpopular. Did we mention that it would hurt Kentucky probably more than any other state?
But relax. You’ll be in a friendly setting with fellow Republicans Gov. Matt Bevin and congressmen Andy Barr and Brett Guthrie.
We can safely assume you guys won’t be hearing from any minimum-wage earners whose cancer was caught early because of the Medicaid expansion that you and Bevin want to roll back. No self-employed entrepreneurs will be whining that a pre-existing condition could once again put insurance out of their reach.
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You won’t hear from any Kentuckians forced into bankruptcy by medical bills before the Affordable Care Act lowered our rate of uninsured adults from 15 percent to 6 percent. And that data showing that the individual insurance market is generating profits for insurers, contrary to your claims of a market collapse? It won’t come up.
You won’t hear from any victims of the opioid epidemic who would lose access to treatment under Republican plans.
And no PowerPoints about how many jobs will be lost due to the cuts in health-care funding.
In short, you’ll be safe from harangues by anyone speaking for 500,000 Kentuckians who gained access to health care because of the 2010 law that you have called a nightmare and a failure. Likewise for the 22 million Americans who stand to be without coverage in 10 years under the bill that’s awaiting Senate approval.
But should you ever want to learn about the complexities of health care in a poor state, head out to Whitesburg, home to Dr. Van Breeding, Country Doctor of the Year.
Pre-ACA, 20 percent of his patients lacked insurance, now it’s about 3 percent. He could explain how the law you want to repeal is giving many Kentuckians access to preventive care for the first time. “Not only were they just basic diabetics, but they had severe diabetes . . . severe high blood pressure,” Breeding said earlier this year. “Multiple medical issues that needed attention that they hadn’t been able to afford to get.”
You and our governor subscribe to the view that withholding health care from low-income people can teach responsibility. But travel Kentucky and you will find that a chronically sick population makes a poor workforce.
Sending people back to the emergency room by stripping them of insurance might free up Congress to give tax breaks to billionaires, but consumers will end up footing the bill through cost-shifting that raises costs for people who do have insurance. It’s just a short hop to UK HealthCare where annual uncompensated care has dropped from $198 million to $86.5 million since the ACA’s expanded coverage.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell recently intimated that Republicans are so divided they may have to (gasp!) enlist Democrats in the health-care debate. Don’t worry. No one at the “listening session” will pester you about why you ruled out working with Democrats. After all, health care is just one-sixth of the economy.