Vice President Pence will travel to the Louisville area on Saturday for an appearance with Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin, according to his office. More details about the visit are expected to be released later Thursday.
On Wednesday, a Louisville Regional Airport Authority spokeswoman said officials were told that Trump was preparing a trip to Louisville. A White House source said later that night that the president was not planning a trip to Kentucky at that time and that more details of his schedule would be released later this week. The Tennessean is reporting that Trump will be in Nashville Wednesday.
At an event in Lexington on Thursday afternoon, Bevin confirmed he would meet with Pence on Saturday but declined to provide details about the visit. The governor has said the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, has been a disaster in Kentucky, saying many counties only have one insurer available under the plan.
More than 500,000 Kentuckians gained health coverage in Kentucky after it was implemented by former Gov. Steve Beshear, who gave the Democratic response to Trump's first address to Congress last week. After the implementation, Kentucky dropped from about 20 percent of its 4.3 million residents with no health coverage to about 7 percent.
Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul is among the conservative lawmakers who have criticized the House GOP bill to overhaul the Affordable Care Act, saying it doesn’t do enough to dismantle the law.
On Tuesday, Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway appeared on 840 WHAS radio and criticized Paul for his opposition to the proposed repeal-and-replace effort, which he says doesn't go far enough. Later that day, a tweet from Trump's account said, "I feel sure that my friend @RandPaul will come along with the new and great health care program because he knows Obamacare is a disaster."
Paul spokeswoman Kelsey Cooper said Thursday morning that Paul is happy to welcome Pence to the state. This week, the senator on Thursday reintroduced legislation from the last Congress to fully repeal the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
“The Republican Party is unified on Obamacare repeal,” Paul said. “We can honor our promise right away by passing the same language we acted on in the last Congress. Then, we can have a separate vote on replacement legislation that will deliver lower costs, better care, and greater access to the American people.”
Republicans have a slim margin in the Senate and will have a difficult time crafting health care legislation that can satisfy both conservatives and moderates. If three Republican senators oppose the bill, a united Democratic opposition can stop it.
In the past two weeks, Pence has made similar visits to discuss the repeal-and-replace measure, including invite-only appearances with small business leaders in Springdale, Ohio, and Janesville, Wisconsin.
Larry J. Sabato, director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics, said Thursday he think's Pence's Kentucky visit serves multiple purposes, including to build support for the bill and going to the Beshear's home state.
But he thinks it's mainly directed at Paul.
Sabato said it's common for politicians to make appearances in the backyard of key legislators they want to pressure.
"There is a lot of resistance" to the repeal-and-replace proposal, Sabato said. "They got a lot of work to do, and this is one of the things that Trump's been willing to put his stamp on."
But Sabato said he doesn't expect Paul to back down because of the visit.
"Whether you like him or not, you've got to call him principled," he said. "I don't think he's gonna change his mind on this."
The repeal-and-replace measure would phase out Obamacare's expansion of Medicaidand would also end the open-ended match states receive for all other Medicaid beneficiaries, which is about 70 percent in Kentucky. Instead, states would be given a set amount of money based on the number of enrollees they had in 2016 in various categories, including children, disabled adults and the elderly.
The bill also changes the private insurance subsidies available under the ACA for those who aren’t covered through an employer and don’t qualify for a government program like Medicare and Medicaid.
The change could help people who are younger, higher-income or live in areas where premiums are lower, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Those who are older, lower-income or live in high-premium areas such as Alaska and Arizona benefit more from the current subsidies.