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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear on Tuesday took the case in favor of the Affordable Care Act to the Commonwealth. "These are our friends, these are our family, these are our neighbors," he said of those who are currently uninsured, as he spoke at a Frankfort news conference.
"They choose between food and medicine many times," the governor said, adding that many people in the state also put off doctor's appointments and treatment and that bankruptcy is "just one bad diagnosis away."
The governor said most of those people are working, but they don't have insurance because they can't afford it or their employer doesn't provide it. He also cited decreasing productivity and lower attendance in school as factors that affect the entire state and its economy.
The expansion of Kentucky's Medicaid program will include 308,000 more people under the federal Affordable Care Act, often known as Obamacare. It allows states to expand coverage to people with incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level.
The governor said the other 332,000 uninsured Kentuckians will be able to access affordable coverage through the health care exchange, which is the online insurance marketplace.
Kentucky chose to create its own exchange rather than let the federal government do it. Open enrollment for the exchange, called Kynect, begins October 1 through March 31. If you sign up by December 15, it takes effect January 1.
"This is a historic event in the Commonwealth," the governor said. "No longer can insurance companies deny you coverage because you're sick or you have a pre-existing condition. And by the same token, no longer can they drop you just because you get sick."
He said he was especially glad to see mental health care included, because of the need for it in Kentucky, especially in fighting substance abuse.
Here's what's covered:
Ambulatory patient services (medical care you receive without being admitted to a hospital, such as in a clinic or doctor's office)
Maternity and newborn care
Mental health care, including substance abuse treatment
Rehabilitative services and devices
Preventive and wellness services and chronic disease management (routine physicals, screening, vaccines, etc.)
Pediatric services, including oral and vision care
Gov. Beshear gave several examples of how individuals would be affected under the Affordable Care Act:
A 22-year-old woman, a non-smoker, who earns $20,000 a year, could pay as little as $51 a month in premiums.
A 24-year-old man with a pre-existing condition, a non-smoker who earns $24,000 a year, could pay as little as $98 a month.
A 50-year-old man, a smoker, earning $30,000 a year, could pay as little as $60 a month.
A 32-year-old single woman with two children, a non-smoker who earns $40,000 a year, could pay as little as $133 a month.
A self-employed farmer in his mid-50s, a non-smoker who earns $34,000 a year, could pay as little as $47 a month.
A family of four, all non-smokers, earning $70,000 a year, could pay as little as $403 a month.
Gov. Beshear said, "The bottom line is, go look -- doesn't cost you a dime to go look. Don't be afraid to go look, because what you're going to find is, most people are going to be very positive about it."
He continued, "Our collective health is horrible, it's been horrible for a long time. And no critic of the Affordable Care Act has stepped up with any feasible, large-scale plan to do something about it."
But not everybody approves of the act. Back in July, U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell called it a job-killing, tax-increasing measure. "Look, the federal government can't handle the health care it's already got," McConnell said. "Medicare is in trouble already. Medicaid is in trouble already. We need to clean up the health care the federal government is already responsible for before we start immodestly trying to take over all of American health care."
"This is a huge public policy change," State Senator Julie Denton, a Louisville Republican, said in May of this year, "made by one individual in the state who won't even be here when the bill comes in for this."
"What we're doing is we're doubling down on failure. We're just going to get worse," said tea party activist David Adams in May.