FRANKFORT, Ky. -- Kentucky is ready to move ahead to create a statewide health insurance exchange after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the federal health care federal health care overhaul, Gov. Steve Beshear said Thursday.
The second-term Democrat said he will issue an executive order "soon" to create the online exchange that's intended to help uninsured Kentuckians find affordable health coverage.
The Supreme Court narrowly upheld President Barack Obama's historic health care overhaul, including the provision that requires nearly every American have health insurance. The decision set off another round of heated political debate, with most of Kentucky's top elected officials weighing in.
"This Supreme Court decision removes much of the uncertainty about the Affordable Care Act," Beshear said in a statement. "Kentucky has been systematically preparing to meet the implementation deadlines set forth in the bill as a precautionary matter."
The health care act will result add 300,000 Kentuckians who can't afford health insurance to the Medicaid program, officials say.
In February, Kentucky received a nearly $58 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to prepare for the implementation of the reforms that have been so bitterly opposed by Kentucky's Republican leaders.
"Americans want it repealed, and that's precisely what we intend to do," U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell declared Thursday. "Americans want us to start over. And today's decision does nothing to change that. The court's ruling doesn't mark the end of a debate. It marks a fresh start on the road to repeal. That's been our goal from the start. That's our goal now. And we plan to achieve it."
Democratic U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth of Louisville lauded the Supreme Court's ruling.
"The law lowers costs, strengthens care, and _ once fully implemented _ will guarantee all Americans access to quality, affordable coverage while creating nearly 6 million new jobs in the health care sector," Yarmuth said. "During my time in Congress, an overwhelming majority of Louisvillians have told me they want guaranteed access to health care, lower premium costs, and more choice in the insurance market. The Affordable Care Act accomplishes each of these goals."
The only other Democrat in Kentucky's federal delegation, U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler of Versailles, said he still favors changes to the law, despite the ruling.
"Even though I voted against the bill, there are good parts of the law that helped usher in much-needed reforms, like those that protect central Kentuckians by preventing insurance companies from dropping people if they get sick, ending lifetime caps on coverage, and eliminating pre-existing condition exclusions," Chandler said. "The health care reform law isn't perfect and needs some major changes, and Congress must find a way to make quality health care available to all Americans at a reasonable price."
Republican U.S. Sen. Rand Paul said health care reform opponents will "fight every hour, every day" to elect Republicans willing to repeal the act.
"Just because a couple people on the Supreme Court declare something to be `constitutional' does not make it so," Paul said. "The whole thing remains unconstitutional. While the court may have erroneously come to the conclusion that the law is allowable, it certainly does nothing to make this mandate or government takeover of our health care right."
U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers, the Kentucky Republicans who chairs the House Appropriations Committee, said the ruling "is terrible news" for working families and senior citizens in his Appalachian district.
"I will continue to fight to repeal this misguided, job-killing law and work to ensure that families make their own decisions on health care, instead of Washington bureaucrats," Rogers said.