TheTimesTribune.com, Corbin, KY

State News

August 23, 2013

Beshear, McConnell square off on health care reform

CORBIN — By Ronnie Ellis / CNHI News Service

Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear and Republican U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell used the Kentucky Farm Bureau breakfast Thursday at the State Fair to duel over the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare” as its critics refer to it.

Beshear has implemented the law in Kentucky, establishing online exchanges for people to shop for low-cost health insurance and expanding Medicaid to cover about 300,000 previously uninsured Kentuckians.

McConnell, on the other hand, tells every audience he faces that “we need to pull out Obamacare, root and branch.”

So when Beshear addressed 1,600 or so gathered for the annual breakfast, McConnell sat stoically two chairs away while the governor said implementing the law “is a historic opportunity to change the future of the commonwealth.”

Beshear said implementing the law “is not only the right and moral thing to do,” but will provide an economic boon to Kentucky by creating 17,000 jobs, creating a positive economic impact of $15.6 billion and ultimately boost state revenues by a net of $800 million.

He told the crowd, “These aren’t my numbers,” but represented the conclusions of two independent, outside analyses.

Beshear recalled for the audience — and perhaps specifically for McConnell — that the same form of health care reform was successfully implemented in Massachusetts under Republican Gov. Mitt Romney and it didn’t cause employers to leave in droves and more people in that state now enjoy health insurance coverage.

He said it is time for Washington put away political posturing and bickering and work across partisan lines to solve national problems.

It didn’t take McConnell long to respond when he followed Beshear to the podium.

After ticking off some of his standard lines about the national debt and what he calls a “war on coal” by the Obama administration, McConnell turned to Beshear’s comments.

“I was interested in the governor’s observations about Obamacare,” McConnell said. He pointed to news accounts published Thursday that UPS, the state’s largest employer, announced it was dropping spousal coverage from employee health plans.

The company said it’s doing so to lessen the costs of implementing the ACA.

“So, governor, the solution to Obamacare is to pull it out root and branch,” McConnell said. That produced louder applause than that Beshear received when he said the law is the right and moral thing to do for Kentucky.

McConnell’s Republican colleague, Sen. Rand Paul, also addressed the crowd. Although he spent much less time on the ACA than McConnell, Paul did ask the crowd to consider “where’s the money coming from” to implement the program in Kentucky and across the nation.

Later the two answered reporters’ questions and Paul expanded on those remarks to say the national deficit and debt mean the money “won’t be there” in the future when the federal government is supposed to pay for 90 percent of the Medicaid expansion.

Health care wasn’t the only issue that produced jousting between Beshear and McConnell.

Beshear called on the Congress to stop its “political excuses” and “political posturing” long enough to pass a farm bill to help Kentucky’s agricultural community — a line which drew loud applause. He went on to say if critics of the ACA spent as much energy on passing a farm bill as they’ve expended trying to kill health reform, it would be of greater benefit to Kentucky.

McConnell assured the largely agricultural group at the breakfast that “we will get a farm bill.” But he said it must be “the right farm bill.”

McConnell, who is minority leader in the Senate and has a seat on the Agriculture Committee, opposed an earlier version of the farm bill.

In addition to representing their two opposing parties, McConnell and Beshear have had a frosty relationship since they faced off in the 1996 U.S. Senate race won by McConnell.

Ronnie Ellis writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Reach him at rellis@cnhi.com. Follow CNHI News Service stories on Twitter at www.twitter.com/cnhifrankfort.

1
Text Only
State News
  • Healthcare signup in state extended

    While the national health exchange established by the Affordable Care Act — known to some as Obamacare — suffered glitches, crashes and delays, the Kentucky-run exchange, Kynect, was often used as a national model.

    April 4, 2014

  • Kentucky budget passed with little debate

    The Kentucky General Assembly, divided between chambers along party lines, overwhelmingly passed a $20-billion, new two-year budget not only on time but with almost no debate.

    April 1, 2014

  • Lawmakers agree on snow bill

    Kentucky school officials, parents and students finally have what they’ve been asking for: A bill to allow them to get out of school before the summer fully sets in, even if they don’t make up some of the days they missed during the severe winter.

    March 31, 2014

  • Tensions rise during budget negotiations

    Tensions increased Friday between the Republican Senate and Democratic House over continuing negotiations on a new, two-year budget. It even got personal at times.

    March 31, 2014

  • Kentucky Power plan a potential landscape-changer

    Electrical ratepayers, local governments and those employed in the coal industry might have a hard time understanding the complicated transaction through which Kentucky Power Company is purchasing half the generating capacity of a coal-fired West Virginia plant.

    March 28, 2014 2 Stories

  • Senate passes budget with no locked-in gas tax hikes

    The state Senate on Tuesday passed its version of a two-year revenue measure, and unlike the House version, it does not lock in gas tax increases.

    March 26, 2014

  • House passes bill aimed at saving Big Sandy Plant

    Backers of a bill to require the Kentucky Public Service Commission to “reconsider” its previous order approving Kentucky Power’s purchase of a West Virginia generator say all they are asking “is for them to take a second look and look at all the facts.”

    March 26, 2014 1 Story

  • Judge: Companies can’t use eminent domain for pipeline project

    Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd on Tuesday ruled that companies building a natural gas liquids pipeline across parts of Kentucky cannot invoke eminent domain to force private property owners to provide easements.

    March 26, 2014

  • Still no snow day solution from lawmakers

    Senate and House negotiators, working on a bill to give school districts flexibility in making up snow days, each accused the other of moving the goal posts – but it’s the local school districts who may be penalized.

    March 25, 2014

  • Senate sets budget with ‘wiggle room’

    It was no surprise the Republican-controlled Kentucky state Senate altered the $20 billion, two-year state budget approved by the Democratic-controlled House, but there may have been a few who were surprised by how little it was changed.

    March 25, 2014