By Al Cross
Kentucky Health News
Health care has become a major issue in the Nov. 5 election for governor, with a Republican ad accusing Attorney General Andy Beshear of having “radical views on health care.” The Democrat calls the ad a “smear” and says he is opposing moves by Republican Gov. Matt Bevin that Beshear says would take away many Kentuckians’ health coverage.
The 30-second ad from the Republican Governors Association says, “Andy Beshear supported the government takeover of health care; now Beshear supports giving taxpayer-funded health benefits to people who CAN work but choose not to. We can’t afford Andy Beshear’s radical views on health care.”
Beshear opposes Bevin’s efforts to require work, volunteering, schooling or other “community engagement” of able-bodied, childless people who are covered by the 2014 expansion of Medicaid by Beshear’s father, then-Gov. Steve Beshear (under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare), to people with incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level.
Bevin asserted in July that “hundreds of thousands of people” on Kentucky Medicaid “could be going to work, should be going to work, and choose not to go to work.” A study by researchers working for his administration, but doing research on their own, estimated that about 48,000 people on Medicaid would not currently meet the community-engagement requirements; they estimated that the number is about 36 percent of those who would be subject to the requirements.
The requirements have been blocked twice by a federal judge in Washington, D.C. His latest decision, and a similar one against similar work requirements already implemented in Arkansas, have been appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. Three judges of the court will hear the cases Oct. 11 but they are not expected to rule before the election.
Bevin has predicted that the Supreme Court will ultimately decide the issue, and has issued an executive order that would abolish the Medicaid expansion six months after any final court decision against his work requirements.
In a press release issued in response to the spot, the Beshear campaign did not mention the work rules, but said the ad “tries to smear Andy Beshear’s strong record of fighting to lower the cost of health care for working families and protect coverage for Kentuckians with pre-existing conditions.”
The release notes that Bevin is among officials who appealed a ruling blocking association health plans, which would make it easier for small employers to form insurance groups. The proposed rule for such plans says they can’t deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions, but critics of the plan say they could simply refuse to cover certain conditions they don’t want to cover.
The Beshear release also includes links to news stories about Bevin calling for the repeal of the Affordable Care Act and supporting a lawsuit that could lead to the 2010 law being struck down, without actually mentioning the law.
The Republican ad includes images of an angry Sen. Bernie Sanders, an anguished-looking Rep. Alexandria Oscasio-Cortez and a yelling Sen. Elizabeth Warren, saying “Washington liberals want to eliminate employer-provided health coverage, forcing everyone into a single, government-run plan. Every single person.” That is not at issue in the election for governor. Both political parties often try to associate the other party’s candidates with personalities or proposals that their public-opinion polls show are unpopular among voters in the election being contested.