The Kentucky Senate and 'big daddy government'

02/22/2013 04:51 PM

Republican Senators sent a message to Gov. Steve Beshear on Friday by requiring the legislature to approve whether Kentucky can accept federal funds to implement portions of the Affordable Care Act.

It is likely to be little more than a message, however, as the bills are unlikely to win support in the Democratic controlled House. Both Democratic House Speaker Greg Stumbo and Health and Welfare Committee Chairman Tom Burch, D-Louisville, have said Kentucky should move forward with the health exchange and that Beshear should agree to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

The Senate bills, SB39 and SB40 , are sponsored by Sen. Julie Denton, R-Louisville. She said she filed the bills to provide checks and balances in regard to potentially expanding the Medicaid program and the creation and operation of a Health Benefit Exchange. Beshear last year created the health benefit exchange through executive order.

The votes on the bills went down party lines with a 23-13 vote on SB39 and a 22-12-1 vote on SB40. (Sen. Robin Webb, D-Grayson, passed on a vote on the bill to add legislative approval of the already-established health benefit exchange.)

The Affordable Care Act, also called Obamacare, allows states to set up health benefits exchanges that are aimed at matching up uninsured Kentuckians with private health coverage. The state has moved forward with setting up the agency using federal grant money. It will be a part of the state’s Health and Family Services Cabinet.

Senate Republican Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, called the effects of the Affordable Care Act another example of “big daddy government.”

Beshear has not officially said whether he will agree to expand Medicaid, which covers health care for the poor and disabled, to those earning up to 138 percent of the poverty rate. The federal government, under the Affordable Care Act, would cover the cost of it between 2014 and 2017, then the state would have to pick up 5 percent of the expansion costs in 2017. That would rise to 10 percent by 2020.

Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, spoke in favor of the bill from the Senate floor saying that the bills had nothing to do with politics. Instead, he said it’s an issue of process — making sure that decisions with impacts on the state’s budget can’t be made only by the executive branch.

Former governor and current Sen. Julian Carroll, D-Frankfort, told Republican Senate members he didn’t buy their argument that the bill was just for checks and balances on the system.

Carroll brought up a vote held in the Government Contract Review Committee where Republicans attempted to block the lease for office space where the Health Benefit Exchange employees would work.


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