In a New York Times op-ed published on Thursday, Kentucky’s governor calls on politicians to put the health of their citizens above the partisan fighting over Obamacare. Democratic Governor Steve Beshear notes that the health reform law could have a huge impact on the struggling Americans who live in red states, and he’s “offended” that so many state leaders are so preoccupied with resisting it.
"SUNDAY morning news programs identify Kentucky as the red state with two high-profile Republican senators who claim their rhetoric represents an electorate that gave President Obama only about a third of its presidential vote in 2012.
So why then is Kentucky — more quickly than almost any other state — moving to implement the Affordable Care Act?
Because there’s a huge disconnect between the rank partisanship of national politics and the outlook of governors whose job it is to help beleaguered families, strengthen work forces, attract companies and create a balanced budget."
Kentucky’s own senators, Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul, are two of the most vocal opponents of health reform. Paul is currently endorsing an extremist right-wing strategy to force the government to shut down unless Obamacare is defunded.
“There’s a huge disconnect between the rank partisanship of national politics and the outlook of governors whose job it is to help beleaguered families, strengthen work forces, attract companies and create a balanced budget,” Beshear writes. He points out that “it’s no coincidence” that the handful of Republican governors who have bucked their party and agreed to implement Obamacare’s provisions (Jan Brewer of Arizona, John Kasich of Ohio and Rick Snyder of Michigan) see the health law “not as a referendum on President Obama but as a tool for historic change.”
Under Beshear, Kentucky is the only Southern state that is actively participating in both of the health law’s two major provisions to extend coverage to uninsured people; the optional Medicaid expansion and the state-level insurance marketplaces. Many GOP-led states have resisted doing any work to set up those pieces of the law because they don’t want to appear to be cooperating with Obamacare.
The governor notes that "PricewaterhouseCoopers and the Urban Studies Institute at the University of Louisville concluded that expanding Medicaid would inject $15.6 billion into Kentucky’s economy over the next eight years, create almost 17,000 new jobs, have an $802.4 million positive budget impact (by transferring certain expenditures from the state to the federal government, among other things), protect hospitals from cuts in indigent care funding and shield businesses from up to $48 million in annual penalties."
"In short," adds Beshear, "we couldn’t afford not to do it."
When comparing health outcomes by zip code, Kentucky is currently considered to be one of those very sick states. Beshear laments that his state ranks among the worst in nearly every major health category, like smoking, heart disease, diabetes, cancer deaths, and preventable hospitalizations.
The Governor makes a powerful closing statement, that blasts those who place partisan politics above the lives of American citizens:
"As for naysayers, I’m offended by their partisan gamesmanship, as they continue to pour time, money and energy into overturning or defunding the Affordable Care Act. It’s shameful that these critics haven’t invested that same level of energy into trying to improve the health of our citizens.
They insist that the Affordable Care Act will never work — when in fact a similar approach put into effect in Massachusetts by Mitt Romney, then the governor, is working.
So, to those more worried about political power than Kentucky’s families, I say, “Get over it.”
The Affordable Care Act was approved by Congress and sanctioned by the Supreme Court. It is the law of the land.
Get over it ... and get out of the way so I can help my people. Here in Kentucky, we cannot afford to waste another day or another life."