- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 11, 2017

Traveling to the home state of a Republican critic of the administration-backed health care bill, Vice President Mike Pence said Saturday that Obamacare is falling apart and must be replaced.

“Obamacare has failed the people of Kentucky,” Mr. Pence told an audience in Louisville. “It’s failed the people of America, and Obamacare must go.”

Referring to opposition in Congress from some conservatives and Democrats, Mr. Pence said the administration will need every Republican lawmaker’s vote to pass the plan that was introduced by House Republican leaders this week. The full House is expected to vote on the plan within two weeks.

“Let me be clear, this is going to be a battle in Washington, D.C.,” Mr. Pence said. “And for us to seize this opportunity to repeal and replace Obamacare once and for all, we need every Republican in Congress — and we’re counting on Kentucky. President Trump and I know — at the end of the day, after a good and vigorous debate — we know Kentucky will be there.”

One of the chief critics of the new health-care legislation is Sen. Rand Paul, Kentucky Republican, who has criticized the bill as “Obamacare Lite.” He has said the measure will be “dead on arrival” in the Senate.

Influential conservative groups such as Heritage Action, FreedomWorks and the Club for Growth have come out against the White House-backed plan.

As Mr. Pence spoke to an invitation-only audience at an energy company, hundreds of people demonstrated outside in support of Obamacare. Democrats have praised former Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear for his implementation of Obamacare through the state-run exchange known as Kynect.

But Kentucky’s current governor, Republican Matt Bevin, said Saturday that the state cannot afford the program and its growing expansion of Medicaid. One-third of Kentuckians are on Medicaid.

“The system is collapsing. It doesn’t work in Kentucky,” Mr. Bevin said. “Half our counties only have a single provider. Change has to come. The system is broken.”

Of the opposition in Congress to the replacement plan, Mr. Bevin said, “Of course there’s disagreement as to what we should do with it. This is America. This is a multi-step process.”

Mr. Pence called Kentucky “a textbook example of Obamacare’s failures.”

“Here in the Bluegrass State, premiums skyrocketed by an average of 24 percent last year, with some plans spiking by 47 percent,” the vice president said. “Nearly half of the state only has one health insurer to choose from. And next year, Humana, headquartered right here in Louisville, is pulling out of Kentucky’s Obamacare exchange. And Medicaid here in Kentucky is threatening to bankrupt this state. Folks, this just can’t continue, and I promise you it won’t.”

The new GOP bill would end additional Medicaid funding in 2020 except for those already in the program. Conservatives want to speed up that timetable to 2018.

Mr. Pence said the new health-care bill is the right path to a better system, saying “we’re going to start — we’re going to repeal the mandates and taxes and penalties of Obamacare.”

“Despite some of the fear-mongering by those on the liberal left, I want to assure the people of Kentucky who might be looking on this morning: We’re going to work with the Congress and work with our agency at Health and Human Services, and we’re going to have an orderly transition to a better health-care system that makes affordable, high-quality health insurance available for every American,” the vice president said.

He urged business owners in the audience to put pressure on lawmakers to approve the legislation to replace Obamacare and support the rest of the administration’s pro-business agenda.

“We need all of you to stand up, to speak out, to let your voice be heard,” Mr. Pence said. “There’s no time like the present.”

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