The Governor’s Race: Beshear and Cameron on health
Published 4:30 pm Friday, October 27, 2023
Editor’s note: This is part of weekly series examining the race for governor.
Kentucky is ranked low on nearly all health indicators, from healthcare quality (45th) to access (37th) to public health (48th).
What have governor candidates Andy Beshear and Daniel Cameron done to improve the Commonwealth’s health, and what are their plans if elected?
On March 6, 2020, Gov. Andy Beshear declared a state of emergency in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Later that month following federal recommendations, he issued orders to close restaurants for in-person services, public-facing businesses and schools. Church gatherings were also restricted.
Restaurants reopened for some in-person traffic in May 2020, and some schools opened permanently in December 2020.
Beshear said he does not regret his pandemic restrictions.
“I made the best decisions I could to save as many lives as possible,” he said. “Yes, they were tough, but you have to do what’s hard when you are in a one in a 100 year pandemic.”
Cameron has repeatedly said that he would not have done the same. He said he would have tried to reopen schools and businesses as quickly as possible.
He fought against vaccine mandates and Beshear’s quarantine mandate for out-of-state travelers in court as attorney general.
Cameron has also defended Kentucky’s current abortion law, a near-total ban with no exceptions for rape or incest, in court.
He said that if the legislature passed a bill with these exceptions, he would sign it. However, the legislature introduced a bill with rape and incest exceptions during the 2023 session and it went nowhere, so that is not a likely outcome.
He called himself “Planned Parenthood’s worst nightmare.”
“At the end of the day, we need to keep in mind that every baby is an image bearer of God, and I think that we need to establish here in Kentucky a culture of life,” he said.
Beshear said that he supports “reasonable restrictions on abortion, especially late term procedures,” but also believes that victims of rape or incest “need options.”
He vetoed a 2022 bill that banned abortion after 15 weeks that did not include rape and incest exceptions.
Planned Parenthood’s political arm has spent $200,000 opposing Cameron and supporting Democratic candidates this election cycle.
Aging populations and childcare
According to AARP, Kentucky has more than 600,000 caregivers providing 570 million hours of unpaid family care.
Cameron said he wants to expand opportunities to provide resources to Kentuckians in kinship care, the care of children by relatives.
He said that he would work with the legislature to expand childcare services, and criticized Beshear for closing childcare centers during the pandemic.
Beshear also wants to free up kinship care dollars.
He said that his plan for universal pre-K will allow parents to get back to work.
Beshear added that as attorney general he started the first senior protection office and got the PACE program for seniors who want to live at home but need a high level of healthcare running.
Beshear’s father and former governor Steve Beshear expanded Medicaid to 400,000 able-bodied Kentuckians.
The following governor, Matt Bevin, introduced a Medicaid waiver that would have established work requirements to remove 100,000 of those Kentuckians off of benefits.
When Andy Beshear was elected, he ended that waiver process. In 2022, he expanded Medicaid to cover dental, vision and hearing. He said it would help people get back to work.
Cameron said he also wants people to get back to work, and would establish work requirements for Medicaid benefits to create that “culture of work.”
He said that he would not get rid of the Medicaid expansion in September, though.
“I understand from talking to health care providers why the expansion of Medicaid was important,” he said.
“Because when folks come into the ER, the hospital, if they’re not covering that, is going to bear the cost of serving that person, and they’re not able to put that money back into their facility or making improvements to our health care industry.”