FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Democratic state Attorney General Andy Beshear vowed to undo Republican Gov. Matt Bevin's efforts to revamp Kentucky's Medicaid program as a key part of a health care agenda he would pursue if elected governor this year.
Calling health care a "basic human right," Beshear said he would push to insert key components of the federal Affordable Care Act into state law so Kentuckians "aren't subject to political games" in Washington.
"My goal is to make sure every single Kentuckian has some form of coverage, and that we lower the cost for every single Kentucky family," Beshear said at a news conference outside the state Capitol.
He also took aim at Bevin's plan to impose work requirements as a condition for Medicaid coverage for some recipients. Beshear denounced the plan as "callous."
Bevin's office did not immediately respond to emails seeking comment on Beshear's criticisms.
Health care looms as a divisive issue as Bevin seeks a second term. Beshear is among four candidates seeking the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in the May 21 primary.
Beshear's father, former Gov. Steve Beshear, used an executive order to expand Kentucky's Medicaid program. That order increased Medicaid rolls by more than 400,000 people to cover abled-bodied adults.
Bevin says the expansion was too expensive. He won federal permission to require some Medicaid recipients to have a job, go to school or do volunteer work to keep their benefits. The rules are set to take effect in April but face a court challenge.
Bevin's administration has estimated the changes would reduce the state's Medicaid rolls by about 95,000 people and save state taxpayers $300 million over five years.
Andy Beshear said he would protect the state's Medicaid expansion, calling it a "national model" in reducing the ranks of the uninsured.
"Ending expanded Medicaid will gut, if not end, rural health care in most parts of our state," Beshear said.
Beshear, widely seen as the Democratic front-runner, repeatedly criticized Bevin while unveiling his health plan. The two are bitter rivals as Beshear, as attorney general, took Bevin to court repeatedly to challenge a number of his executive actions.
Beshear said his health care plan also seeks to ensure Kentuckians aren't charged for preventive health services.
He also wants to require that all health care plans cover mental health care services, and that young adults can stay on their parents' plans until age 26.
But Beshear's efforts to put those elements of the Affordable Care Act into Kentucky law would likely face considerable resistance from the state's Republican-dominated legislature. The federal health care law known as the ACA was championed by former President Barack Obama.
Beshear, who unveiled his plan on the same day President Donald Trump's administration asserted in court that the entire ACA should be eliminated, also called for creating a prescription drug affordability board to control costs and proposed a prescription drug spending cap for Medicaid.
Other Democrats running for governor are state House Minority Floor Leader Rocky Adkins, former state auditor Adam Edelen and frequent candidate Geoff Young.
On the Republican side, Bevin faces challenges from state Rep. Robert Goforth, William Woods and Ike Lawrence.
Kentucky is one of three states that will elect governors in 2019, along with Louisiana and Mississippi.