From Mike King
I used to live in Kentucky. It’s a great state. I’d be hard pressed to say that most of the state is any more or less conservative than Georgia. It is, after all, home to the Senate Majority Leader (Mitch McConnell) and an up-and-coming tea party favorite who may be a presidential candidate in 2016 (Rand Paul). On the political color spectrum, it’s very red.
But it isn’t a one-party state. Steve Beshear, the governor, is a Democrat. He’s a former Attorney General for the state and a long-time political figure in Kentucky. And he was smart enough to understand, quickly, how Obamacare can help his state economically while at the same time improving the health and welfare of Kentucky residents by moving thousands of them from no insurance to Medicaid. He also quickly signed Kentucky up to manage its own health insurance exchanges and, by doing so, seemed to generate enough competition in the bluegrass to help keep policies affordable.
Here’s Beshear’s explanation of his decision in today’s New York Times
Contrast that with Georgia, a similarly red state. Unfortunately one-party domination (and the accompanying fear of tea party tail wagging that now controls that party) will leave Georgians to fend for themselves on the federal insurance exchanges. Meanwhile, 650,000 of the state’s residents who could have qualified for Medicaid will be left out altogether.
Georgia’s claim is the state can’t afford it. The state has a $20 billion annual budget. It is much healthier than Kentucky. Georgia can afford it. Kentucky has a visionary governor. Georgia has an intimidated governor who probably, deep down, knows it would have been the right thing for the state to expand Medicaid and set up its own exchanges. But he lacked the political fortitude to do it.