The governor compared health insurance to "the safety net of crop insurance" and said farmers need both. He said 640,000 Kentuckians—15 percent of the state—don't have health insurance and "trust me, you know many of those 640,000 people. You're friends with them. You're probably related to them. Some may be your sons and daughters. You go to church with them. Shop with them. Help them harvest their fields. Sit in the stands with them as you watch your kids play football or basketball or ride a horse in competition. Heck, you may even be one of them."
Beshear went on to say that "it's no fun" hoping and praying you don't get sick, or choosing whether to pay for food or medicine. He also said Kentucky is at or near the top of the charts on bad-health indicators, including heart disease, diabetes, cancer deaths, and preventable hospitalizations. He said all that affects everything from productivity and school attendance to health costs and the state's image.
"We've ranked that bad for a long, long time," he said. "The Affordable Care Act is our historic opportunity to address this weakness and to change the course of the future of the commonwealth. We're going to make insurance available for the very first time in our history to every single citizen of the commonwealth of Kentucky."
About half the audience burst into applause at that point while the other half sat on their hands. But he wasn't done. He cited a study that showed the law would inject about $15.6 billion into the Kentucky economy over eight years, create 17,000 new jobs, and generate $802 million for the state budget.
"It's amazing to me how people who are pouring time and money and energy into trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act sure haven't put that kind of energy into trying to improve the health of Kentuckians. And think of the decades that they have had to make some kind of difference," Beshear finished pointedly.
Those are frankly two of the best arguments for Obamacare that I've heard, the third being "Expanding Medicare sure is a lot cheaper than taxpayers swallowing the cost of indigent emergency room care." Jason Cherkis reminds us that if people don't know it's Obamacare, they love it. Even here in Kentucky.
A middle-aged man in a red golf shirt shuffles up to a small folding table with gold trim, in a booth adorned with a flotilla of helium balloons, where government workers at the Kentucky State Fair are hawking the virtues of Kynect, the state’s health benefit exchange established by Obamacare.
The man is impressed. "This beats Obamacare I hope," he mutters to one of the workers.
“Do I burst his bubble?” wonders Reina Diaz-Dempsey, overseeing the operation. She doesn't. If he signs up, it's a win-win, whether he knows he's been ensnared by Obamacare or not.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act -- Obamacare -- totals 974 pages, and in the popular imagination is several times longer. How the complex law unfolds could very well determine the winner of Kentucky's high-stakes 2014 Senate race pitting Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) against Democratic upstart Alison Lundergan Grimes -- and along with it control of the upper chamber.
But Diaz-Dempsey has managed to distill it all down to three sentences.
We are Kynect -- part of the new health care law.
Do you know anyone who doesn’t have health insurance?
You may qualify for Medicaid or a tax credit based on your income.
And people love Kynect. It's not Obamacare, you see. Regardless, it's good seeing Beshear stand up for Obamacare. My question is does Alison Lundergan Grimes have the courage to do the same?