PAC ad calls for ‘no more Obamacare’ though Bevin and Stivers say they want to keep covering people in Medicaid expansion

By Al Cross
Kentucky Health News

A pro-Republican political committee that doesn’t reveal its contributors is running a television commercial in response to former Gov. Steve Beshear’s effort to preserve the programs he established under the federal health-reform law.

“Steve Beshear and the Frankfort liberals won’t stop in their sad attempt to keep Obamacare,” begins the ad from the Kentucky Opportunity Coalition, showing Beshear and House Speaker Greg Stumbo in black and white video. “Kentuckians rejected Obamacare, yet they won’t listen.”

The basis for the latter assertion is unclear. Polls have shown that Kentuckians have a negative opinion of “Obamacare” but a positive view of the two elements of the law that Beshear implemented: the Kynect exchange for federally subsidized health insurance, and expansion of the federal-state Medicaid program to Kentuckians with incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level.

Scott Jennings, who calls himself a “senior adviser” to the coalition and is its spokesman, couldn’t be reached for comment Tuesday night.

The unsupported assertion is followed by a color clip of Gov. Matt Bevin, perhaps suggesting that his election amounted to a rejection of Obamacare. He ran on a promise to close Kynect, which Beshear used as the substitute brand for Obamacare in a state where President Obama is unpopular. Bevin says the exchange is redundant and the 90,000 people with Kynect policies can use the federal exchange.

The larger part of Obamacare in Kentucky is the Medicaid expansion, which covers about 400,000 people. Bevin originally promised to eliminate the Medicaid expansion, but backed off that vow in July and said he would scale it back in ways that would save money and require at least some beneficiaries to have “skin in the game” through premiums, co-payments, deductibles or similar measures.

The federal government is paying the entire cost of the expansion through this year. States will pay 5 percent of the cost next year, rising in annual steps to the law’s limit of 10 percent by 2020. Bevin argues that the state can’t afford the program as structured and that it is not, contrary to Beshear’s claims, paying for itself through expansion of health-care jobs and generation of tax revenue.

The ad continues with color clips of state Senate President Robert Stivers, House Republican Leader Jeff Hoover and Lt. Gov. Jenean Hampton and says, “Governor Matt Bevin and conservative lawmakers are working to get Kentucky’s finances back on track, replace Obamacare and cut wasteful spending.”

The “replace Obamacare” line appears to contradict what Bevin and Stivers have said about the Medicaid expansion. Bevin had said he wants to cover as many people as possible, and Stivers has said he wants to keep the same people covered. However, polls suggest that the line may be politically popular, and the ad asks viewers to sign a petition calling for “no more Obamacare. We want fiscally responsible government.”

The coalition is a “super PAC,” or political action committee, that is organized as a nonprofit corporation and does not have to reveal its contributors. It supported U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell’s re-election bid in 2014 and is supporting Republican candidates for the state House in special elections on March 8. The ad is titled “Go Home,” its message to Beshear.

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