Steve Beshear and Mitch McConnell, two of the most powerful lawmakers in Kentucky, are at odds when it comes to Obamacare.
McConnell, on the one hand, describes the president’s signature healthcare reform bill in near-apocalyptic terms, recently calling it a “catastrophic failure” that is “beyond fixing.”
“It needs to be pulled out root and branch and we need to start over. It’s been a catastrophe for health care and for the economy at large,” McConnell told Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren on Wednesday.
But McConnell’s home-state’s governor, Steve Beshear, strongly disagrees. ”I have a U.S. senator who keeps saying Kentuckians don’t want this. Well, the facts don’t prove that out,” Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear told reporters on Thursday in Capitol Hill. “There is a tremendous pent-up demand in Kentucky for affordable health care,” Beshear said. “People are hungry for it.”
Indeed, Kentucky’s exchange has been one of the most successful in the nation thus far, and in the wake of the federal exchange’s much-documented early failures, has been seen by Obamacare’s supporters as a model of how the program looks when it’s working. According to Beshear, more than 550,000 people have visited Kentucky’s Obamacare site since its Oct. 1 launch. More than 180,000 have called into the healthcare call center, meanwhile, and about 69,000 people — 41 percent of whom are under the age of 35 — have signed up.
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The governor also boasted of the law’s economic benefits to the state. Over the next eight years, he said, it will generate $15 billion for Kentucky’s economy and create 17,000 new jobs.
McConnell spokesman Don Stewart responded by citing an article about 280,000 Kentuckians being forced to give up their current insurance policies as a result of Obamacare requiring stricter guidelines for coverage.
Beshear made his remarks during a press conference with House Democratic leaders, just after meeting with the full Democratic caucus. He said his message to them was to “be patient, take a deep breath” as the administration works out kinks in getting the health care website fully up and running for people around the country.
Asked if he thinks Obamacare will be a factor in McConnell’s reelection campaign in 2014, Beshear said “it may well be,” but perhaps not in the way McConnell hopes.
“I predict it will be an issue where people start looking at the critics and say, ‘What was all that yelling and screaming about? I think you must have misinformed us about the Affordable Care Act,’” he said.