Gov. Matt Bevin and Attorney General Andy Beshear met Tuesday night in an impassioned debate at the University of Kentucky, where health-care concerns once again stole center stage.

Both candidates made several conflicting statements about the pension system, Medicaid reform and unemployment in the state. Accusations of “lies, lies, lies” and misleading statements abounded from both lecterns.

The State Journal analyzed several statements made during the hourlong debate to assess context and accuracy.

Bevin: Those close to Beshear ‘increasingly going to prison’ for corruption

During closing remarks, Bevin said he had changed “the corrupt culture that has existed in this state” and said that “people who work with the attorney general and his father are increasingly going to prison.”

There have been two such convictions. The most recent was that of lobbyist James Sullivan in summer 2018, for bribing Tim Longmeyer, who was the chief deputy to Andy Beshear in the attorney general’s office and personnel secretary for Beshear’s father, Steve Beshear, who preceded Bevin. Sullivan was sentenced to nearly three years in prison in January 2019

Asked after the debate about his use of the word “increasingly,” he said the FBI continues to investigate corruption in the state.

Beshear: Bevin cut pensions for public employees using a sewer bill

“Not only did this governor try to illegally cut the retirements of our teachers,” Beshear claimed, “He stuck it in a sewer bill.”

Bevin quickly corrected Beshear, pointing out that legislators, not governors, are in charge of handling bills.

The legislation referenced by Beshear was initially a sewage-services bill. Teachers across the state criticized the bill after it was inserted with last-minute pension reform measures last year, without the possibility of a forum for public comment.

In fact, Bevin also criticized the 11th-hour bill, though he did sign it before it was ultimately invalidated by the state Supreme Court because of the procedure used.

Bevin: Kentucky unemployment sits at record low

Bevin once again claimed that unemployment has reached a record low in Kentucky, and said no counties have double-digit unemployment.

Although statewide unemployment has dropped under the Bevin administration, it currently sits at 4.3%, according to the Federal Reserve. This is nearly a percentage point higher than last November’s rate of 3.5%. And the latest unemployment figures showed that three counties have unemployment of 10% or more.

Beshear said, “More than 82% of the jobs this governor has claimed to have created … have been in just two cities,” after Bevin touted his record of job creation.

After the debate, Beshear said those cities were Lexington and Louisville.

Both statistics are from the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce. During a 2018 business summit, consultant Ted Abernathy stated that Kentucky added about 15,000 jobs from 2017 to 2018, with “82% of them in the Lexington and Louisville metros.”

Beshear: Bevin’s Medicaid revamp would take coverage from 95,000 of those insured for first time

Beshear said Bevin’s plan to revamp the Medicaid program “would rip 95,000 off health care who had it for the first time.”

Actually, Bevin’s proposal estimates that five years after it is implemented, Kentucky would have 95,000 fewer people on Medicaid than it would without his changes. Also, while many people on the Medicaid expansion did not have health coverage in the past, some did. And the numbers do not apply to specific individuals, because every month tens of thousands of people go on and off Medicaid owing to eligibility changes.

As of August, 451,543 people were covered by the expansion; the total Medicaid population was 1.35 million, or 30% of the state’s population.

Bevin: Pre-existing conditions would not be targeted by association health plans

The candidates contested faulty protections for pre-existing conditions under association health plans (AHPs), which Bevin supports.

These plans permit small businesses to purchase more expansive coverage by joining with other nearby businesses to act as a single, larger employer and are intended to reduce the cost of providing care for small-business owners.

On the surface, such plans prohibit discrimination based on pre-existing conditions. But according to the American Medical Association, “there is a significant risk that AHPs could disproportionately impact individuals with pre-existing conditions” by charging “based on factors that are not explicitly defined in terms of health or medical conditions, but that closely track those forbidden factors."

Association health plans may also vary premiums by age, gender, industry and geography, factors that can be used to predict or anticipate pre-existing conditions.

Emily Laytham, a University of Kentucky journalism major, is covering the 2019 gubernatorial race for The State Journal.

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