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‘Better than not having any insurance at all’ Obama says of Obamacare criticism from Kentucky

Kathy Oller, from Kentucky, asks President Barack Obama a question during Obama’s interview with Vox’s Ezra Klein and Sarah Kliff, to discuss Affordable Care Act, Friday, Jan. 6, 2017 in Washington. Watching is Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell, right seated.
Kathy Oller, from Kentucky, asks President Barack Obama a question during Obama’s interview with Vox’s Ezra Klein and Sarah Kliff, to discuss Affordable Care Act, Friday, Jan. 6, 2017 in Washington. Watching is Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell, right seated. AP

As Republicans take aim at his signature health care law, President Barack Obama defended its record in Kentucky and other states that expanded Medicaid, urging enrollees to press Republicans on their plans for providing health coverage if they scrap his efforts.

Speaking on Friday to a Kentucky woman who signed up people for the health care plan, but who said many now are finding the Affordable Care Act “unaffordable and unusable,” Obama said the plan’s subsidies aren’t as big as they should be.

But he suggested, it’s better than what Republicans are offering.

Kentuckians “may not be as happy as they’d like, but – tell me if I’m wrong – they like it better than not having any insurance at all,” he said in the interview taped Friday for Vox.

Kathy Oller, the Kentucky Obamacare enrollment worker who had signed up 1,000 Kentuckians for the coverage, agreed.

“Correct,” said Oller, who voted twice for Obama, but sided with Trump in 2016. “And some didn’t even have insurance.”

But Oller told Obama that people in Kentucky are experiencing “fewer choices in our area” in terms of health care plans and “an increase in premiums and deductibles.”

Obama noted the program had “really worked” in Kentucky after former Gov. Steve Beshear expanded Medicaid.

“Because I don’t poll that well in Kentucky, they didn’t call it Obamacare, they called it Connect – Kentucky Connect, right?” Obama said to laughter.

Gov. Matt Bevin’s administration last year phased out the state’s health care enrollment platform, and enrollment now takes place through the federal health care exchange.

Obama said the subsidies that enable some people to purchase insurance aren’t as generous as they should be and insisted that he’d support repeal – if Republicans come up with something better. Republicans have not yet laid out a replacement plan, and some are leery about repealing the law without an alternative.

And Obama said he doubted they’d be able to: “He’s going to promise you, or those people who you’ve been signing up, better health care, except there’s not going to be any money to pay for it,” Obama said of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. “And nobody has explained to me yet how that’s going to work.”

He said those not “fully satisfied” with the plan should pressure Congress for details of what they plan to do.

“The answer is not for them not to have insurance,” Obama said.

The Commonwealth Fund, a nonprofit that supports increased access to health care, said in a report last month that between 2013 and 2015, Kentucky had the biggest drop in the nation in the percentage of low-income people of working age without health insurance, as well as the biggest increase in access to care.

However, the Kentucky Hospital Association has complained about the 2010 law hurting hospitals’ revenue and forcing layoffs and McConnell said Thursday that the law has been a disaster.

McConnell cited increases in premiums and deductibles that make insurance unaffordable for many; insurance companies “fleeing” the exchanges set up under the law, which will mean a lack of choice for many people; and people losing access to doctors, hospitals and health plans they liked.

“Obamacare is making things worse, and we now have a moral imperative to repeal and replace it – to bring relief to families now,” McConnell said.

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