Eyes on Kentucky about Obamacare debate, Implementation
By Molly Burchett, Kentucky Health News

Posted on January 1, 0001 12:00 AM

The good, the bad and the ugly about health reform in Kentucky are showing up on national news as the state's two Republican senators stand vehemently against Obamacare and the state's Democratic governor ardently roots for it. Meanwhile, state officials say their health-insurance website, which is working much better than the federal site, is getting much more traffic than they expected.

The Republican senators from Kentucky, Rand Paul and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, declared last week that their constituents didn’t want any part of the Affordable Care Act. “Obamacare might sell in New York, but Kentuckians aren’t buying it,” McConnell and Paul wrote in a column sent to newspapers.

This came after Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear, who decided to build the insurance exchange without asking for approval from the politically divided General Assembly, wrote a New York Times op-ed in support of the reform law. He jabbed at “naysayers” who “pour time, money and energy into overturning or defunding the Affordable Care Act.”

The problem for McConnell and Paul is that Kentuckians are buying into Obamacare, writes John Tozzi of Bloomberg Businessweek. "In fact, the Kentucky exchange has, so far, enrolled more patients than any other." Kentuckians are enrolling in droves, at a rate of more than 1,000 people per day, and Beshear has become more pointed in his criticism of McConnell and Paul.

“Our state’s U.S. senators are simply ignoring the facts when they continue to insist that ‘no one’ in Kentucky wants the Affordable Care Act,” Beshear told MSNBC.

Carrie Banahan, executive director of Kynect, the state's insurance exchange, told Jane Timm of MSNBC that enrollements are far beyond state officials' expectations. “We had thought that maybe we might receive a couple of hundred applications during the month of October. We had no idea it would be thousands of applications.”

were concerns that people in rural areas might not get the word about the program or have difficulty signing up because they lack Internet access, but Teresa Fleming, chief financial officer of Mountain Comprehensive Health in Eastern Kentucky, told Timm her lobbies had been flooded with people signing up for the plans. Her primary-care facilities were among the numerous Kentucky clinics that received part of $2.83 million in federal money for Kynect outreach and enrollment iniatives.“The response has shocked us,” Fleming said, “We think it’s due to a lot of word of mouth."

Kentucky's success is getting much national attention. Beshear discussed it with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews and keynoted a meeting in Washington. President Obama praised Beshear’s implementation during a private meeting with House Democrats Wednesday, said Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Louisville, who was at the meeting.

“The president said (the Affordable Care Act) got really good rollouts in some places you wouldn’t expect it, and he said the place that has done best is Kentucky,” Yarmuth told James R. Carroll of The Courier-Journal. He said Obama noted the irony that McConnell and Paul have been two of Obamacare's most vocal critics.

Republican efforts to defund or delay Obamacare led to the shutdown of the federal government, which has proven highly unpopular. It may have also improved public opinion of the law; an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll last week found a 7-percentage-point increase in its popularity. The survey also found the Republican Party registering its worst approval ratings in the poll's history, with just 24 percent having a favorable opinion of the GOP, and 21 percent viewing the Tea Party favorably.

"There is little question that the GOP is bearing the brunt of blame in the standoff over re-opening the government and the debate over the debt ceiling as 53 percent of the public now places  the blame on Congressional Republicans compared to 31 percent who view President Obama as being the guilty party," Rick Unger of Fotbes reports.

Kentucky Health News is an independent news service of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, based in the School of Journalism and Telecommunications at the University of Kentucky, with support from the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.

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