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Kentucky Lawmakers React To GOP’s Failed Attempt At Obamacare Repeal


House Speaker Paul Ryan announced Friday that the Republican plan to replace Obamacare would not get a vote, to the delight of one of Kentucky’s U.S. senators and dismay of the other.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell issued a brief statement thanking Ryan and President Donald Trump for promoting the effort, despite its failure.

“Obamacare is failing the American people and I deeply appreciate the efforts of the Speaker and the president to keep our promise to repeal and replace it,” McConnell wrote. “I share their disappointment that this effort came up short.”

McConnell and other Kentucky Republicans have won elections by campaigning against Obamacare for years and the GOP has vowed to repeal the policy since its passage in 2010.

But the repeal and replace effort never gained support among conservative Republicans in the House who favored an outright repeal of the policy.

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul helped lead the charge against the plan, threatening that it would never be taken up in the Senate even if it passed the House.

“I applaud House conservatives for keeping their word to the American people and standing up against Obamacare-Lite,” Paul said in a statement on Friday. “I look forward to passing full repeal of Obamacare in the very near future.”

Paul has proposed his own bill to repeal Obamacare. It would scrap taxes, do away with the requirement to have health insurance and get rid of the ban on insurers refusing coverage for those with pre-existing conditions.

But it’s unclear if Congress will take up any bill dealing with Obamacare in the near future.

U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, a Democrat, said the non-vote showed that Republicans realize the political danger of repealing the Affordable Care Act.

“I think they now understand not only that it’s extremely complicated, but also that the American people think this is very important,” Yarmuth said. “Because this affects every one of them and their families very personally.”

President Trump on Friday called for Republicans to “let Obamacare explode,” saying that the program will eventually become unsustainable.

“We’ll end up with a great bill in the future, once Obamacare collapses,” Trump said.

Yarmuth said Trump’s comments were “irresponsible and inhumane.”

“If you’re going to run the government, you want to make sure government programs run as effectively as possible and benefit as many people as possible,” Yarmuth said.

Former Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, who embraced Obamacare while in office, applauded the non-vote and called on lawmakers to come up with fixes to the current system.

“The winners today are the millions of Americans and hundreds of thousands of Kentuckians who have been able to receive health coverage through the Affordable Care Act, many of them for the first time,” Beshear said. “It’s now time to put people over politics and collaborate across party lines to improve the ACA and further reform our health-care system.”

After implementing the Affordable Care Act, Kentucky’s uninsured rate dropped from more than 20 percent to about 7 percent. About 500,000 people got health coverage, mostly through the expansion of the Medicaid system.

But the program also had trouble in the state. Lower enrollment and higher costs prompted many insurers to leave the state exchange recently, and those that stayed hiked premiums significantly in 2017.

Five companies that sold insurance on Kentucky’s health exchange in 2016 pulled out of the program for 2017. Those that remain are charging higher premiums.

Ryland Barton is the Managing Editor for Collaboratives for Kentucky Public Radio, a group of public radio stations including WKMS, WFPL in Louisville, WEKU in Richmond and WKYU in Bowling Green. A native of Lexington, Ryland most recently served as the Capitol Reporter for Kentucky Public Radio. He has covered politics and state government for NPR member stations KWBU in Waco and KUT in Austin.
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