|Steve Beshear (Herald-Leader photo)
Former Gov. Steve Beshear will give his party’s response to President Donald Trump’s speech to Congress Tuesday night, “highlighting the Kentucky Democrat’s efforts to expand health care coverage under the law Republicans are determined to repeal and replace,” The Associated Press reports.
The choice of Beshear, who is 72 and left office almost 15 months ago, was announced by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. Their release included other news, that Beshear was recently named a senior leadership fellow at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and is working on a book, to be called People Over Politics.
As governor in 2007-2015, Beshear embraced the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, most notably by expanding the Medicaid program to about 440,000 people with incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. As a result, Kentucky led the nation in reduction of the percent of its population without health insurance.
Republican Gov. Matt Bevin says Kentucky can’t afford to pay its 5 to 10 percent share of the expansion’s cost and has asked federal officials to let him trim it back, estimating the changes would leave Medicaid with 86,000 fewer Kentuckians in five years than without the changes. Now that Republicans control the federal government, they are expected to approve Bevin’s proposal and perhaps other changes. Meanwhile, Republicans in Congress are working on a replacement for the 2010 law.
“The choice of the former governor stands as a counterpoint to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who is at the forefront of efforts to repeal the law,” AP reported.
Beshear issued this statement: “American families desperately need our president to put his full attention on creating opportunity and good-paying jobs and preserving their right to affordable health care and a quality education. Real leaders don’t spread derision and division — they build partnerships and offer solutions instead of ideology and blame.”
AP reports, “House Republicans aim to roll out legislation in coming weeks to replace major elements of the Affordable Care Act with a new system involving tax credits, health savings accounts and high risk pools, but crucial details remain unknown. They’ve had to defend their plans at raucous town hall meetings around the country this week, and a new poll showed support for the law at a record high.”