Former Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear says he’s “thrilled’ that three Republicans in the U.S. Senate voted against the latest attempt to repeal elements of the Affordable Care Act.
Democrats and three Republican senators — John McCain, Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski — voted against the “skinny repeal” bill, dramatically preventing supporters from securing the 50 votes needed to pass it.
Beshear called out Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for leading the charge to repeal the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
“It’s unconscionable that Mitch McConnell would be ‘proud’ of his vote to rip away health care from the most vulnerable residents of the commonwealth,” Beshear said in a statement.
“Today, every Kentuckian who has benefited from this law can rest easier. But the work isn’t finished. Now Democrats and Republicans need to put politics aside, put people first, and work together to improve this law, and they need to do it immediately.”
Beshear, a Democrat, embraced the health care policy during his governorship. He expanded the state’s Medicaid system by making more people eligible for the program — leading to about 460,000 Kentuckians getting health coverage.
Another 86,000 got health insurance through the state health exchange, which Beshear created by executive order.
Since Beshear’s actions, Kentucky Republicans have successfully campaigned against Obamacare in recent elections.
Republican Gov. Matt Bevin won his office in 2015 promising to scale back the health programs. He has applied to change the state’s Medicaid system by requiring most recipients to pay small monthly premiums and prove that they’re working or doing community service.
McConnell has been the most visible critic of the Affordable Care Act, crafting a series of proposals that attempted to unite Republicans against the policy.
The most recent attempt would have done away with the requirement for large companies to provide health insurance to employees and eliminated the mandate for people to have insurance or pay a penalty.
It also would have allowed states to permit insurance companies to provide plans that don’t meet Obamacare requirements like covering pre-existing conditions and maternity care.
McConnell called the failure “a disappointing moment.”
“I regret that we’re here, but I want to say again that I’m proud of the vote I cast tonight,” McConnell said. “It’s consistent with what we told the American people we’d try to accomplish in four straight elections if they gave us the chance.”
Republicans in Kentucky have criticized the state’s participation in Obamacare.
Five companies that sold insurance on the state’s health exchange in 2016 pulled out of the program for 2017. The remaining companies are charging higher premiums.
The federal government shouldered 100 percent of the additional costs of the program until last year, when Kentucky had to pay for 5 percent of the expansion, about $109 million.
Starting in 2020, the state will have to pay 10 percent, or about $409 million.
Starting next fiscal year, Kentucky will have to start paying more for its Medicaid expansion, which is currently 100 percent subsidized by the federal government.
Meanwhile the number of Kentuckians who don’t have health coverage has dropped from more than 20 percent of the state’s population to less than 8 percent since Obamacare.