In Debate, Bevin and Conway Tout Rural Roots, Clash Over Kynect

Kentucky’s major party candidates for governor squared off Thursday at a forum hosted by the Kentucky Farm Bureau, the first public appearance in which the two men directly responded to one another.

The most heated exchange center on the Affordable Care Act. Conway, the Democratic nominee, accused Republican Bevin of wanting to kick 500,000 people off of health insurance, calling him “callous.”

“If we can’t afford something we can potentially scale back, but I am not going2to kick a half million people off of health insurance on day one,” Conway said.

Jack ConwayPhotos by Ryland Barton

Jack Conway

Bevin said that he wouldn’t kick people off insurance, but rather to do away with the state-run health insurance exchange, Kynect, and move recipients onto the federal exchange.

Bevin also said he would eliminate the state’s expansion of Medicaid.

More than 521,000 people signed up for Kynect in the first year of enrollment—about 400,000 signed up through the expansion of Medicaid.

Kentucky’s share of Medicaid costs will grow over the next few years as the introductory period of the Affordable Care Act phases out and states shoulder more of the system’s costs.

Bevin said that Kentucky won’t be able to afford it.

“If you offer something to people that you know you can’t pay for, you’re lying to them. That’s cruel. That’s inappropriate,” Bevin said.

Bevin also criticized a recent study touted by Gov. Steve Beshear that said Medicaid expansion had created 12,000 more jobs in Kentucky and will create $40,000 new jobs and $30 billion to the state’s economy through 2021.

During a press conference after the forum, Bevin called the study “gibberish” and “faulty.”

Bevin and Conway, who both live in Louisville, stressed their agricultural roots during the forum—Bevin highlighted his experiences growing up on a farm and Conway talked about his family’s roots in Union County.

Conway accused Bevin of not supporting farm subsidies, saying Bevin railed against the farm bill during his  2014 senate campaign.

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Bevin refuted the statements, saying that he was for some subsidies but against including welfare provisions in the federal farm bill, calling it “an insult to farmers.”

Bevin has called for drug testing welfare recipients.

Ryland Barton

Ryland Barton is the Capitol bureau chief for Kentucky Public Radio.