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MSNBC "Hardball with Chris Matthews" - Transcript: Affordable Care Act

Interview

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MATTHEWS: Well, Kentucky`s Governor Steve Beshear joins us now from Louisville.

Thank you, Governor.

That was a strange conversation. Anybody would be embarrassed, but somebody has got to teach Rand Paul that whispering makes it worse. It makes it sound even more like intrigue.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: You can hear everything, but, when you whisper, it sounds, oh, my God, what`s he hiding there?

Anyway, let`s talk about the serious stuff. And we haven`t focused enough on it on HARDBALL, because it`s about implementation. And governors have to do that. Talk about the impact of this new law on people who go to work in the morning, catch the bus early, put in eight hours a day five days a week, maybe 50, but don`t have health insurance, the people who we might call better off than poor, but not well-off.

GOV. STEVE BESHEAR (D), KENTUCKY: Well, Chris, we have got 640,000 uninsured Kentuckians in our state.

And these aren`t a group of aliens from some distant planet. They`re our friends and neighbors. They`re the folks we sit with in the bleachers on Friday night watching football and baseball games. We go to church with them. Some of them are even our family members.

And this Affordable Care Act is giving me for the first time in our history the chance to insure every single Kentuckian in this commonwealth with health insurance. It`s going to be a transformational change for us.

Over the next generation, we will change the course of Kentucky`s history with this Affordable Care Act.

MATTHEWS: You know, I think people get confused because they think it`s for the very poor. The very poor are covered by Medicaid. This is going to increase those who can get coverage from it up to a third or 33 percent beyond the welfare level.

So, in terms of making a tough income of maybe 15K, you`re an individual, would be eligible. Right?

BESHEAR: Well, and that`s 640,000 Kentuckians -- 308,000 of them, we`re going to cover by the expanded Medicaid program.But the other 322,000 are going to be able to get health insurance for the very first time in their lives through the health benefits exchange. And 92 percent of our folks of all of those 640,000 will qualify for some kind of premium subsidy. So, man, this is a win-win situation for every Kentuckian.

MATTHEWS: In a human basis, what do you think it means to a person to have health insurance who hasn`t been able to afford it before and has had to go to the emergency room and just basically sit there and hope for help?

BESHEAR: Chris, we have got people all over this country and obviously in Kentucky who just hope and pray every day they don`t get sick. You know, they keep their kids from going to the doctor hoping that it`s really nothing. They know that they are one bad diagnosis away from bankruptcy. This is -- this is what people have been living under for years and years. We have got horrible health statistics in this state. They`re horrible all over the country. And they haven`t gotten any better over the last few years. So this is a historic opportunity to make a major sea change in Kentucky.

And, by golly, and just like I said in that editorial, get out of my way because we`re going to do this for our people.

MATTHEWS: Well, this is a political question, but I think it`s important. We`re not here with dueling proposals for health care. We`re not looking at one party that has one idea, the Affordable Care Act which is now law, and the other party that had another contender here.

There was another version of how to get it done. How do the people who are on the other side of the aisle from you in terms of party politics, what do they say they would do if Obamacare wasn`t there? What would they be doing now?

BESHEAR: That`s the -- that`s the thing, Chris, is they have spent all this time and effort and money trying to defund or repeal a law that`s been approved by the U.S. Supreme Court. If they`d spent all of that time and energy making some kinds of other proposals, that might make some sense.

But they haven`t made any kind of proposals. They`re just against whatever the president puts out there.Look, this thing may not be the best thing since apple pie, but you know what? It`s there. And it`s available as a tool for people like me,
governors in our states. We`re down where the rubber meets the road. We got to take care of our people.

And, man, what an opportunity this is giving me. I`m not going to let it slip away. I`m seizing it.

MATTHEWS: Well, Governor, key components of the Affordable Care Act success involves the federally funded expansion of Medicaid in individual states, basically allow more working people to be eligible for Medicaid. But so far, 26 states have chosen not to expand Medicaid as you did. Many of those states, as you see here, are grouped in the Deep South.

Unfortunately, that`s also part of the country with the highest concentration of poor people and uninsured people. Look at the numbers. The area in red on this map shows it -- the highest percentage of poor and uninsured adults live primarily in Deep South and large sections of Texas, precisely the states that are not spending Medicaid eligibility.And this leaves the poor and uninsured in those areas stuck in a no-man`s land not poor enough to qualify for Medicaid by the old rules and not eligible for the federal subsidies. Those with slightly with higher incomes will be entitled. So -- and it is really sad, I guess, to see people, you know, slipping through the cracks here, in so many parts of the country.

BESHEAR: Well, Chris -- that`s right. And we`re the only Southern state who both expanding Medicaid and setting up our own exchange. And, look, before I made that decision on Medicaid, I had two parts of that decision to look at.

Number one is it the right thing to do? Well, that`s easy. If I can get health coverage for 640,000 Kentuckians that have never had it before, yes, it`s morally the right thing to do.

But I also had to decide if it`s fiscally responsible? Am I going to bankrupt the state if I do this?

So I had PricewaterhouseCooper and the Urban Institute, they`ll do a six month study. They came back to me and said -- look me in the eye and said, governor, you cannot afford not to do this. It will create 17,000 new jobs. It will be a $15 billion positive impact on your economy over the next eight years. It`s going to be a positive impact on your budget.

I`d get on with it as fast as I can, and that`s exactly what we`ve done.

MATTHEWS: Governor, you restore people`s faith in democracy. Thank you so much, Governor Steve Beshear of Kentucky.

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