By Sam Youngman
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell Tuesday morning laid the groundwork for the Republican response to President Barack Obama’s Tuesday night State of the Union address.
McConnell took aim at the president’s health care law and Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, who will join the Obamas at the annual address, warning that they “can keep telling Americans to ‘get over it’ if they don’t like this law, but sooner or later they’re going to have to come to terms with reality.”
“They’re going to have to accept that Obamacare just hasn’t worked like the administration promised — in Kentucky, and across America — and that it’s time to start over with real reform,” McConnell said in remarks on the Senate floor.
The senator, facing a bruising re-election battle, castigated both the federal-run and Kentucky-run health care exchanges, saying that Kentucky had received more than $253 million “to essentially limit care, cancel plans and increase costs.”
“Kentucky has gotten more money to set up its exchange than every state except California, New York, Oregon and Washington,” McConnell said. “That’s a lot of money. And they’ve still only enrolled 30 percent of the people they were supposed to at this point. How is that a success?”
The senator said he held a telephone town hall meeting with Kentuckians Monday night, and he heard from people who had their insurance plans canceled. He said health insurance premiums in the state have gone up on average 47 percent. (That figure comes from a study by WalletHub.com, which examined historical premium rates for men and women ages 27, 40 and 64, and compared them to the average premiums of plans available on state and federal health-care exchanges. Other studies have said it is very difficult to figure out how much premiums will go up for any given individual.)
“I assure you, these folks won’t be applauding when the president tries to spin this law as a success tonight,” McConnell said. “More than a quarter million Kentuckians lost the plans they had and presumably wanted to keep – despite the president’s promises to the contrary.”
Beshear told the Herald-Leader Monday afternoon that he was “honored” to be joining First Lady Michelle Obama at the State of the Union address, boasting of the success Kentucky’s exchange has enjoyed.
More than 180,000 Kentuckians have signed up since the program went live on Oct. 1. About a quarter of those have signed up for private health plans while the rest have enrolled in the state’s expanded Medicaid program.
“I appreciate his hard work in getting the Affordable Care Act passed to give me the opportunity to change the course of Kentucky’s history when it comes to health care,” Beshear said of Obama.