Kentucky Health News
Many of the questionable assertions and outright misstatements in Sunday night's debate for governor were about health care. Here's a fact check:
Conway said he had cut his budget as attorney general by 40 percent. Bevin said that was a lie because the legislature writes the budget. The governor receives budget requests from agencies and proposes a budget to the legislature, which passes it.
Bevin said Conway lied when he said Bevin would kick half a million people off health care. Bevin said in February that he would immediately end Gov. Steve Beshear's expansion of the Medicaid program. He has since denied saying that, and said last night that Democratic videos of his quotes omit the question he was asked, but that is not the case with his February quote. He now says he would seek a federal waiver to change the program. It might be argued that he could issue another executive order to replace Beshear's, but the Medicaid program has certain requirements that must be met unless waived, and waivers are not available immediately. While Bevin has been vague about his Medicaid plans, he has made clear for the last three months that his actions would not be as abrupt as he first said they would be.
Conway said the Kynect health-insurance exchange, which Bevin wants to abolish, is three and a half times more efficient than the federal exchange, to which policyholders would go. Bevin said that is "an absolute falsehood" because Kynect is funded by a 1 percent fee on all health-insurance policies in Kentucky and only 2 percent of the policies are bought through Kynect. Conway said afterward that he was referring to the 3.5 percent fee charged by the federal exchange, which would make those policies more expensive. While the term "efficient" could arguably be applied to the cost of those policies, a more common interpretation of Conway's comment would be that he was talking about Kynect's operating efficiency.
Bevin said the Kentucky Health Cooperative, a non-profit health insurer that is closing due to losses and lack of money, was "a distinct part" of the study that predicted the Medicaid expansion would pay for itself until 2020. The cooperative is not mentioned in the study. Bevin said afterward that the co-op was part of the "inputs" considered by the study. Reminded that the issue was the sustainabilty of the Medicaid expansion, Bevin noted the 51,000 co-op policyholders who will be losing their coverage. Reminded that Kynect has seven other insurers they can select from, Bevin asked, "Where are those taxpayers dollars going to go?" He was reminded that the co-op was funded by federal dollars, and "Those are our dollars." Bevin is running for governor, not president, but he is trying to appeal to people who dislike the entire "Obamacare' system. He appears to be using the co-op's failure to suggest that the system is not sustainable. However, the co-op, Kynect and the Medicaid expansion operate separately and are separately funded.
Conway quoted Bevin as saying that early childhood education, Conway's main issue, "serves no purpose." Bevin said was "another of those Democrat lies" because his full quote was that it serves no purpose after the third grade. That is based on a study that showed the effects of Head Start disappear after the third grade. Head Start is not the same as the early-childhood education program advocated by Conway, but Bevin has equated the two in the past.
Bevin said the state does not have the surplus that Conway mentioned because it has "tens of billions of dollars in unfunded liabilities." He was referring to state pension funds, which get annual appropriations from the budget but are financially separate. Budgets are for two years and the unfunded liability is for projected payments for current employees for the rest of their lives.
Bevin said, "It's a false idea that coal jobs can't come back." He noted that world coal demand has never been higher, but that ignores the facts that many electric plants in the U.S. have abandoned coal for cheaper natural gas and the coal in Central Appalachia is by far the most expensive to mine in the U.S. The Kentucky part of that coalfield has lost half its coal jobs in the last three years.