Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin (R) could be forgiven for thinking he has a mandate for his agenda. The far-right political novice ran on a platform of, among other things, scrapping Medicaid expansion and taking existing health benefits away from thousands of struggling families – and he won easily, giving him an opportunity to deliver on what he told voters he’d do.
At least, that’s the way this works in theory. In practice, we’ve seen quite a bit of anecdotal evidence pointing to Bevin voters who didn’t fully appreciate the fact that he vowed to take away their access to affordable medical care. The New York Times reported the other day that there’s some quantifiable evidence on this front, too.
More than seven in 10 residents of Kentucky want their new governor, Matt Bevin, to keep the state’s expanded Medicaid program as it is, according to a new poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation. And more than half of respondents described Medicaid as important for themselves and their families, underscoring the program’s substantial reach in the state and the challenges Mr. Bevin may face if he seeks to scale back or modify it. […][T]he Kaiser poll, conducted Nov. 18 through Dec. 1, found that 63 percent of Kentuckians have a favorable opinion of their state’s Medicaid expansion. Support for the expanded Medicaid program was significant even among Republicans, of whom 54 percent said they would prefer to keep Medicaid as it is rather than scale it back to cover fewer people. Of respondents who voted for Mr. Bevin last month, 43 percent said they preferred keeping the program as it is now.
I can appreciate why this doesn’t seem entirely rational – because, well, it isn’t. If so many voters like, support, and have come to rely on Medicaid expansion, why in the world would they vote for a statewide candidate who vowed to destroy Medicaid expansion?
The answer, satisfying or not, is that other issues captured the public’s attention. What’s more, it seems many of these voters simply didn’t believe Bevin would do what he said he would do.
The result is an odd dynamic: about a month after Election Day, most of the governor’s constituents are left to hope that he’ll break one of his highest-profile campaign promises.
Kaiser Family Foundation CEO Drew Altman, told the Times that the survey’s findings: “ ‘We may not like Obamacare very much, but don’t take my brother’s or sister’s or niece’s Medicaid coverage away.’ It’s like there’s an ideological side of people’s brains but a practical side, too, that values the health benefits and the coverage.”
In the meantime, two red-state Republican governors in the last two weeks – South Dakota’s Dennis Daugaard and Wyoming’s Matt Mead – endorsed Medicaid expansion in recent weeks, and Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley (R) appears to be moving in the same direction.
Louisiana, meanwhile, is poised to become the 31st state to adopt Medicaid expansion, thanks to Gov.-elect John Bel Edwards’ (D) recent victory.
Kentucky is, at this point, the only state in the nation considering a step backwards, despite the remarkable success of the Affordable Care Act in the Bluegrass State.