Vice President Pence comes to Lexington "to turn up the heat" on health care reform

07/12/2017 07:04 PM

LEXINGTON — A day before Senate Republican leaders are expected to unveil their latest proposal toward health care reform, Vice President Mike Pence urged Congress on Wednesday to “step up” and “end the Obamacare nightmare.”

Pence, speaking at Bryant Rent-All after hearing from small business owners on the affects of the Affordable Care Act, said a vote on the measure could come as early as next week.

“I came here today to turn up the heat on a promise that every Republican made to the American people and this president made to the American people and tell you that we will keep our promise to all of you and before the summer’s out, we will repeal and replace Obamacare,” said Pence, who was joined by Gov. Matt Bevin and U.S. Reps. Andy Barr, R-Lexington, and Brett Guthrie, R-Bowling Green.

Pence’s remarks come the same day that President Donald Trump said in an interview with Christian Broadcasting Network News that he “will be very angry” if Senate GOP efforts to roll back the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, fail.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will need at least 50 of the 52 Senate Republicans to vote for the reform bill, with Pence casting the tie-breaking vote.

But getting that support has been difficult even at home in Kentucky as U.S. Sen. Rand Paul said again Wednesday that he cannot support the latest iteration of health care bill because he says it doesn’t go far enough in repealing Obamacare.

The Congressional Budget Office estimated last month that the upper chamber’s original proposal would lead to 22 million fewer Americans insured by 2026, mostly from the Medicaid rolls.

Pence praised the efforts of McConnell to pass the legislation, and the vice president also complimented Paul as “a man of principle and conviction” and “a great conservative.”

Still, it’s unclear exactly what will be in the revised Senate bill. Pence gave a vague glimpse ahead of Thursday’s announcement.

“This legislation puts American health care back on the path of freedom — more choices, more affordability,” he said. “This bill will repeal Obamacare’s mandates and taxes on the American people and American businesses and restore freedom and create jobs all across this nation. I just heard about it.

“This legislation will expand health savings accounts and offer tax credits that will help every American buy the coverage you need at a price you afford. It’ll ensure that every American with pre-existing conditions has access to the coverage and the care that you need, no exceptions, and this bill improves and strengthens Medicaid for the people who need it most with better coverage, better care and better outcomes that Gov. Bevin and your state legislature can decide to meet Kentucky’s unique needs the Kentucky way.”

Pence was met by a group of about 100 protestors standing on both sides of Red Mile Road outside Bryant Rent-All, who waved signs and chanted slogans like “health care for all.”

The vice president was critical of Democratic opposition to repeal efforts, saying Democrats “would rather let Obamacare continue to implode than admit their mistake and help Republican majorities rescue the American people.”

McConnell also needled Democrats from the Senate floor on Wednesday, saying that he hoped his counterparts across the aisle would “offer more than just a Band-Aid” or “a $32 trillion re-up of a failed idea” when the legislation is debated.

“Leaving the American people to suffer under the Obamacare status quo is unacceptable,” he said. “We’ve seen the pain in our home states. We’ve seen the heartbreak across our country. The American people are relying on us to bring them real relief.”

In Kentucky, Pence said 59 out of the state’s 120 counties have a single insurance option on Affordable Care Act marketplaces. He said he heard from business owners on Wednesday who didn’t want to expand at the risk of paying soaring health-care costs.

The latter was a point emphasized by Bevin, who introduced Pence.

“There is no perfect solution,” the governor said. “There is no one size that will fit all for everyone, but give us the local control and the ability to make a change. That’s all we’re asking for.”


Subscribe to email updates.

Subscribe and get the latest political intelligence delivered to your inbox.