Connecting federal health law with Obamacare nickname "a lost cause" in Powell County, local Democratic chair says

01/31/2017 07:00 PM

STANTON — More than once a week, Josie Hollon will run into someone in her community who depends on health coverage obtained through the Affordable Care Act and voted for President Donald Trump.

“They will come into the office and say, ‘I don’t want the Obamacare, but I would like the affordable health care,’” said Hollon, an insurance agent and chairwoman of the Powell County Democratic Party.

“But you try to explain it and they are so against that president that they don’t want to talk about that, so we really don’t even mention the Obamacare. It’s just the affordable health care and try to get them to where they do have health coverage and they can get some help with their medical problems.”

The newly inaugurated president made repealing and replacing the federal health law known better by its Obamacare nickname a central tenet of his campaign, and he won Kentucky’s eight electoral votes in a nearly 30-point landslide on Election Day.

In Powell County, the margin was even greater as Trump carried 73 percent of the vote there.

Kentucky has been hailed as an Obamacare success story, its uninsured rate plummeting to 6 percent in 2015. Expanded Medicaid has given less than 2,000 Powell County residents health coverage since it began in 2014, with some 440,000 low-income Kentuckians newly eligible for the program.

At this point, Hollon says she doesn’t explain that the Obamacare some in her community despise is the same federal health law that helps them obtain coverage.

“You don’t even try,” she said during a recent interview at her Stanton office. “The thing is and the solution is we need to get them health coverage, so stop trying to associate it with the president. That’s a lost cause.”

Hollon called Trump’s executive action on the federal health law since his inauguration “destructive,” but she said she would base her judgment on Republican efforts to repeal Obamacare on how they plan to replace it.

Her son, for instance, can’t afford the insurance costs to open a small business because of a pre-existing heart condition, and a friend’s daughter is entering her third round of chemotherapy treatment for cancer, she said.

“It would be very nice to see, ‘This is what we have to offer, this is what we think would be a better plan,’ and if it is a better plan, put it in effect,” Hollon said. “But stop hurting people.”

Hollon says more could’ve been done to promote the benefits of the federal health law during last year’s election cycle.

That would dovetail with another idea she has for Democrats at all levels to improve their electoral prospects in Kentucky: Improve grassroots efforts and get more face-to-face interactions with voters.

“We have quite a few events in our Democrat party here, and I would hope that they (the Kentucky Democratic Party) would come here and help us get this word out that we’re not unchristian, we’re not some horrible Democrat party that’s trying to give everything away and take things away from you,” Hollon said.

“And I think a lot of that’s got to do with our marketing ourself. We need to get out and do more talking and grassroots.”

Mendel Tipton, chairman of the Powell County Republican Party, declined an interview request for this report.


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