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Kentucky Residents Fear Consequences Of Obamacare Repeal

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

In addition to President Trump, we heard another voice on health care last night, former Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear. Last night, Beshear delivered the Democratic Party's official response to Trump's speech. He warned that repealing Obamacare could harm millions.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

STEVE BESHEAR: Does the Affordable Care Act need some repairs? Sure it does. But so far, every Republican idea to replace the Affordable Care Act would reduce the number of Americans covered, despite your promises to the contrary.

CORNISH: As Governor Beshear had embraced the Affordable Care Act, more than 500,000 people in Kentucky got health insurance because of the law. We asked Kentucky Public Radio's Ryland Barton to see how people there feel about the health care law these days.

RYLAND BARTON, BYLINE: Michael Kleier is a horse trainer from Paris, Ky. He's waiting in line at a Kroger grocery store pharmacy.

MICHAEL KLEIER: I've only carried insurance for a year and a half. I didn't have it before. And then they forced me to get it, but I got it with a private carrier.

BARTON: Kleier gets coverage through his employer, who didn't offer insurance before the Affordable Care Act. He says he wants insurance to be affordable, but blames the law for increasing rates.

KLEIER: And people I know, people that have had coverage before - and it just went through the roof. And they couldn't afford that.

BARTON: Kentucky had one of the largest drops in the number of people without insurance after Obamacare took effect. Most of those people got coverage through the expansion of the state's Medicaid system. Stacy Hodges, a dietician from Lexington, says expanded Medicaid saved her life after she was diagnosed with cancer.

STACY HODGES: I probably would have spent $100,000 on my health care getting chemotherapy, getting radiation, getting all of my treatment, blood transfusions every two weeks, ending up in the hospital for about a month.

BARTON: Hodges is worried about losing her coverage.

HODGES: I know that my health care is going to be changing. And I'm kind of dreading it because I still have to go through routine scans. Luckily, the frequency has been reduced.

BARTON: Even many Obamacare opponents here don't want to see people lose coverage. Lori Richardson voted for Donald Trump and wants the law repealed.

LORI RICHARDSON: I've also seen the other side of it with my uncle that's going through treatments for leukemia and another uncle that's a severe diabetic. It has helped them tremendously because of the pre-existing clause in there.

BARTON: The dilemma for Republicans here and across the country is how to undo parts of the law voters don't like while keeping the parts they do. For NPR News, I'm Ryland Barton in Frankfort, Ky. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ryland is the state capitol reporter for the Kentucky Public Radio Network, a group of public radio stations including WKU Public Radio. A native of Lexington, Ryland has covered politics and state government for NPR member stations KWBU in Waco and KUT in Austin.

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