Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell took a swipe Tuesday at former Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, the Democrat chosen to deliver the party’s response to President Donald Trump’s speech tonight to Congress.
Beshear, governor from 2007 to 2015, championed the implementation of the Affordable Care Act in Kentucky, and he was tapped in part as a rebuttal to McConnell, a Kentucky Republican who’s one of the law’s biggest foes.
In a floor speech Tuesday, McConnell called the law an “absolute disaster” for Kentucky, saying higher premiums and fewer provider choices had “pushed Kentucky’s insurance market to the brink of collapse.”
McConnell said Kentuckians had rejected the law by electing a governor, a state Legislature and a president who favored its repeal.
“I’m not sure how else to interpret their choice to respond to the president’s address tonight,” McConnell said. “The absolute Obamacare disaster that Gov. Beshear presided over continues to harm Kentucky today — even after he’s left office.”
But Obamacare, as the law is popularly known, also insured about 300,000 Kentuckians who previously lacked coverage. Most of them gained it through an expansion of Medicaid, the state-federal health insurance program for the poor.
According to the census, 6 percent of Kentuckians lacked health insurance in 2015, versus more than 14 percent in 2013.
Though Beshear pushed the Medicaid expansion, his successor, Republican Gov. Matt Bevin, plans to roll it back, saying the state can’t afford its $1.2 billion cost over five years.
A study by the Harvard School of Public Health last year found that under the Medicaid expansion, low-income Kentuckians received more primary and preventive care and made fewer emergency room visits.
At a series of events last week in Kentucky, McConnell faced sharp questions from constituents who feared losing coverage if Republicans make good on their promise to repeal Obamacare.