U.S. Vice President Mike Pence has appealed to voters in Kentucky to support “a battle” to replace the nation’s health care program, commonly known as Obamacare, with a replacement bill authored by Republicans on Capitol Hill.
“Folks let me be clear, this is going to be a battle in Washington, D.C., and for us to seize this opportunity to repeal and replace Obamacare once and for all, we need every Republican in Congress and we’re counting on Kentucky,” Pence said in a televised speech while touring an energy services company Saturday in Louisville, Kentucky, a state represented by Senator Rand Paul, one of the bill’s fiercest Republican congressional critics.
Paul has called the initial draft of the replacement bill “Obamacare Lite,” joining a chorus of conservative lawmakers and groups who have raised objections to the measure, known as the American Health Care Act.
Opponents of the replacement bill have urged the Trump administration to stop providing the extra money Obamacare gives states to expand the federal-state Medicaid program for 70 million low-income people. The replacement bill would cut off the additional funding in 2020, except for people already enrolled in the program, two years later than conservatives want.
Despite the opposition, President Donald Trump posted on Twitter Saturday that the replacement bill is moving forward.
“Kentucky is a text book example of Obamacare’s failures,” Pence said, claiming that health insurance premiums in the state “skyrocketed” last year by an average of 24 percent.
Pence said nearly half of Kentucky has only one health insurer to choose from, and he noted that health insurer Humana Inc., headquartered in Louisville, will withdraw next year from the state’s “Obamacare exchange.”
Governor Matt Bevin, also a critic of the replacement bill, has warned that the state cannot afford to pay for its growing Medicaid program, which has cost millions more than originally expected and now covers more than one-quarter of Kentucky’s population.
Pence said “Medicaid is threatening to bankrupt” Kentucky, and he added that the replacement bill would give all states “the freedom and flexibility with Medicaid to meet the needs of your most vulnerable.”
Pence directed his remarks Saturday to “the people of Kentucky who might be looking on this morning. He is no stranger to selling the replacement plan on the road, having done so recently in Missouri, Wisconsin and Ohio.