Politics & Government

In Kentucky, Pence says ‘Obamacare has failed,’ touts Republican plan

Vice President Pence paints dire picture of Obamacare in Kentucky

Vice President Mike Pence makes the argument that the Affordable Care Act has failed Kentucky as he tries to whip up support for a Republican replacement bill.
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Vice President Mike Pence makes the argument that the Affordable Care Act has failed Kentucky as he tries to whip up support for a Republican replacement bill.

As Congressional Republicans wage war over how to replace the Affordable Care Act, Vice President Mike Pence stood on a makeshift podium in Kentucky on Saturday and stressed the Trump administration’s desire to get rid of former President Barack Obama’s signature legislation.

“Obamacare has failed the people of America, Obamacare has failed the people of Kentucky and Obamacare must go,” Pence said to applause from a private audience of business leaders, like Papa John’s founder John Schnatter, at Harshaw Trane, an energy management services company.

Pence appeared with Gov. Matt Bevin to rally support of the Congressional proposal to replace Obamacare, taking part in a discussion with small business owners in the state about health care before speaking to a larger audience of invited guests.

Pence celebrated some of the elements of the Republican bill and ideas supported by President Trump, like expanding health savings accounts, allowing people to buy insurance across state lines and giving flexibility and freedom to states to determine Medicaid expansion on their own, an idea Bevin, who wants to restructure Kentucky’s Medicaid expansion, touts.

Pence also pledged to keep some of the more popular elements of Obama’s Affordable Care Act, the bill he and Bevin said has failed the people of Kentucky — like allowing people with pre-existing conditions to get coverage and allowing children to stay on their parents’ health care until they turn 26.

The event came just a few days after U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky did the D.C. talk show circuit criticizing the Republican’s health care proposal. Paul has called the plan “Obamacare Lite,” saying it keeps too many elements of the Affordable Care Act.

“We are united on repeal, but we are divided on replacement,” Paul said Wednesday. “What’s the best way to get past this impasse? Let’s vote on what we voted before: A clean repeal.”

Bevin, on Friday, agreed with Paul that there are issues with the bill as it is written but said the bill is a work in progress and that he expects changes to be made by the House or Senate.

“Senator Paul has ideas, he thinks it needs to be a lot stronger, he’s not as impressed with what has currently been offered as some who have currently offered it,” Bevin said. “Truth be told, I’m not either.”

On Saturday, Bevin said Kentucky has been “devastated” by the Affordable Care Act. He said the Republican proposal in Washington will focus on health outcomes, instead of making sure people have insurance.

“If we focus on the health care and the health outcomes, we will ultimately have a more affordable system,” Bevin said.

Experts say it’s too soon to expect reliable data on improved health outcomes due to the Affordable Care Act, but that access to care has increased since 2013.

Kentucky’s Medicaid expansion system was touted by the Obama administration as an example of the success of the Affordable Care Act, to the point where former Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear gave the response to President Donald Trump’s joint address to Congress.

Through Medicaid expansion, more than 500,000 people received insurance in Kentucky and the state’s uninsured rate dropped from 13.6 percent in 2012 to 6.1 percent in 2015, one of the highest drops in the country.

But Bevin and Pence pointed out some of the problems that people have seen with the Affordable Care Act in Kentucky, mentioning the high premiums and the fact that insurers like Humana, which is based in Kentucky, have pulled out of the system.

Both Bevin and Pence said disagreement over the bill in Washington is to be expected, but that ultimately Republicans will come up with a solution.

“There are differences of ideas, but the one thing everyone agrees on is this: change has to come,” Bevin said.

Daniel Desrochers: 502-875-3793, @drdesrochers, @BGPolitics