All eyes are on Matt Bevin, the tea party Republican who, of course, has made Obamacare repeal a centerpiece of his various runs for higher office. Now that he’s secured one—the Kentucky governor’s seat—he’s discovered it’s not so easy. That’s exactly what all Republicans have discovered since the Supreme Court burst their bubble and refused to rule the entire law unconstitutional. So Bevin is going to be a case study of what a Republican executive faces when the reality of not being able to keep a promise made to the rabid base kicks in.
Even before the votes were cast, Bevin had started hedging his repeal bet, saying he would not take coverage away from people who have it. He can give the health law in his state a more conservative veneer. But he can’t scrap it completely. […]
That doesn’t mean foes of Obamacare aren’t buoyed
Bevin’s win over Democratic Attorney General Jack Conway in a race that previewed themes of the 2016 presidential campaign.
“The lesson for Republicans is to be bold,” Americans for Prosperity President Tim Phillips said after Bevin’s win. “The lesson for any Democrat running is that if they embrace Obamacare, they do so at their own political peril,” he added, noting that Kentucky voters punctured the myth of their state’s Obamacare success. […]
Al Cross, director of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues at the University of Kentucky, also pointed out that not all the decisions are up to the governor-elect.
“A key thing to remember at this point is the Republican president of the Senate, Robert Stivers, made clear in July that the Legislature was going to decide the future of the Medicaid expansion,” Cross said.
He recalled that just one day later, Bevin stopped talking about killing expansion and started talking instead about changing it.
In addition, a state law dating back to 1996 requires that the state draw all the Medicaid money that is available to it, so deciding to reverse Medicaid expansion and reject those federal dollars would result in a lawsuit. There’s the larger reality of kicking more than 400,000 people off of coverage through expanded Medicaid. Already, Bevin’s win is causing some panic among Obamacare enrollees. Audrey Haynes, secretary for the state Health and Family Services division, says that enrollees have been calling Kynect—the state’s system—to find out if they can keep their coverage next year. The help line for Kynect has had to change its script to reassure customers that they’ll still be covered. Imagine the calls that would go to the governor’s office if those people were kicked out?
This really is a good case study for what any would-be Republican president is going to face, albeit on a much smaller scale. Imagine what would happen if a president tossed 10 million people, and many millions more, off of Medicaid. If it’s messy for Kentucky, it’d be a disaster for the country.