- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 12, 2014

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Republicans seeking to take over the House for the first time in nearly 100 years plan a vote that would force Democrats to register their support of President Barack Obama’s signature health care law.

State Rep. Joseph Fischer, R-Fort Thomas, has filed an amendment to the state’s $20 billion biennial budget that would reduce the state’s Medicaid population and eliminate the state’s health insurance marketplace, two pillars of the federal affordable Care Act. The smooth rollout of Kentucky’s state-run marketplace has been considered a success story of the federal Affordable Care Act as marketplaces run by the federal government and some other states have faced glitches.

Thursday would be the first time Kentucky’s Democrat-controlled lower chamber will vote on a law opposed by many in Kentucky. The amendment is expected to fail. But the intent is to put Democrats on the record with a vote.

“We don’t agree with it, and we want to know what House Democrats think about it,” said Rep. Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, the House minority floor leader.

With Democrats clinging to an eight-seat margin in the House, Republicans could cite votes in favor of the Affordable Care Act in their November campaigns.

“It’s going to be an issue that plays a role this fall,” said Steve Robertson, chairman of the Kentucky Republican Party.

About half of the states - including Kentucky - have agreed to make more people eligible for Medicaid, the government-run health insurance for the poor and disabled. Kentucky is also one of 16 states that opted to set up its own health insurance marketplace, where people who don’t have health insurance through their job can shop for discounted private insurance plans.

Through March 3, nearly 280,000 Kentuckians have signed up for either Medicaid or private insurance through Kynect, Kentucky’s health insurance marketplace.

Rocky Adkins, D-Sandy Hook and the House majority floor leader, lauded Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, a Democrat, for leading Kentucky to build its own insurance marketplace instead of relying on the federal site that has been marred by technical glitches.

“The governor has done an outstanding job. He’s said, ‘We are going to implement it in Kentucky, we’re going to do it our way and not let the federal government and Washington, DC, do it for us.’ I have seen very positive responses from that,” Adkins said. “A lot of what goes on down here this session - and other sessions, really - don’t have a lot to do with policy. It has more to do with politics.”

University of Kentucky political scientist Stephen Voss said Republicans will use Fischer’s amendment to define their party for November. But he questioned the wisdom considering that recent poll numbers indicate fewer than half of Kentuckians oppose the health care law.

“It’s not really overwhelming or lopsided numbers, especially among the swing voters who usually are going to decide a close election,” Voss said. “The branding of Kentucky’s health care exchange distances itself somewhat from Obama’s name.”

Fischer said while Republicans might benefit from his amendment, winning an election was not his intent.

“The General Assembly is supposed to set the policy for this state. And these programs - the Medicaid expansion and the affordable care act exchange - have never been even been discussed by the General Assembly,” he said. “My purpose here is to discharge the prerogative and constitutional authority of the legislature.”

House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, dismissed the Republican tactic as “trying to blow up the budget process.”

“I think they get their marching orders from Washington,” he said.

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