(Bloomberg View) -- Kentucky just volunteered to be a nationalpolitical experiment, and it can't help but be an edifying one forthe whole country.

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Ever since the 2010 passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable CareAct, Republicans have worked to sabotage the law andhave done their best Yosemite Sam imitations to show the folks backhome how furious they are at that varmint Barack Obama who signedit.

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Democrats have operated on the theory that Sam's six-shooterfires only blanks.

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Read: Congress may never vote to repealPPACA

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If offered a genuine opportunity to repeal health insurancecoverage for millions of Americans, would Republicans go throughwith it?

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The election of Matt Bevin as governor ofKentucky ought to settle the question.

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Bevin is a Tea Party guy who challenged Republican Senator MitchMcConnell in 2014 with familiar complaints about big government andbig Obama. McConnell beat back the upstart, but Bevin ran forgovernor and won this week.

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Kentucky happens to be the perfect test case for PPACA.Other states with Republican governors have expanded Medicaidto cover the uninsured.

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But under Democratic Governor Steve Beshear, Kentucky's stateinsurance exchange has been a national model, and through thecombination of the exchange and Medicaid expansion funded by thelaw, Kentucky has cut its uninsured rate in half.

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The progress, however, was enabled by executive order, notlegislation, and it can be unraveled similarly.

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Though he previously vowed to do away with all remnants ofPPACA, Bevin appeared to soften near Election Day.

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Like McConnell, who during his 2014 campaign said he woulddo away with Obamacare "root and branch" but somehow keep Kynect,the state health-insurance exchange that is Obamacare's localoutpost, Bevin got squirrelly.

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He said he'd end the state exchange and scale back Medicaidwithout beneficiaries being "kicked to the curb."

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The generic Republican position on health insurance in recentyears has been a spectacular muddle, and the confusion worked itsway into the electorate. In a 2014 poll, a majority of Kentuckiansopposed PPACA while a small plurality in the same poll held afavorable view of Kynect.

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Voters either didn't understand Obamacare's paternity of Kynector simply leaped at an opportunity to oppose anything beginningwith "Obama." Meanwhile, GOP rhetoric has clearly implied that thenation can end a heavily subsidized program enabling 16 million toobtain health insurance without adverse consequences to thebeneficiaries.

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Obviously, that's not true. It will now fall to Bevin, as thefirst Republican with the power to reverse course on a functioningstate insurance exchange and a successful Medicaid expansion, toconjure some magic to make it so.

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As it is, Kentucky has one of the least healthy populations inthe nation. Rates of heart disease and diabetes are high, as istobacco use. Kentucky's 5th congressional district, represented byRepublican Harold Rogers, has a lower life expectancy-- 72.9 years-- than any district in the nation.

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From the summer of 2013, before open enrollment in PPACA began,to August 2015, the signups for Medicaid and CHIP, federallysubsidized health insurance for children, increased 87 percent inKentucky. Altogether, an additional 530,000 of the state's 4.4million people were covered under PPACA.

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Preventive care for Medicaid recipients in the state rosesharply from 2013 to 2014, with screenings for breast cancer up 111percent, for colorectal cancer up 108 percent, and for cervicalcancer up 88 percent.

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The federal dollars that flow into Kentucky to pay for all thatadditional health care add up.

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According to a study by Deloitte Consulting LLC and theUniversity of Louisville’s Urban Studies Institute, Medicaidexpansion will add 40,000 jobs and $30 billion to Kentucky'seconomy through 2021, including a "net positive impact" of morethan $800 million to state and local government budgets.

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That may explain this e-mail from Kentucky Chamber of CommerceCEO Dave Adkisson to a reporter for the ThinkProgress web site: “Wehave serious questions as to the financial impact of dismantling asystem that seems to be working for Kentucky,” Adkisson wrote.

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Weighing against all this, against the cancer screenings and thejobs and the infusion of federal money into a poor state, is thepervasive sense that government is failing and the nation is in arut.

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Democrats are right to view Obamacare as a landmark success: InKentucky, in particular, it is clearly achieving its goals.

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Yet Democrats have also been getting clobbered in state andlocal races all over the country since the law passed. They are nodoubt dispirited at losing yet another governor's race.

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In Kentucky, Democrats are out of power and Republicans are outof excuses. Health insurance for thousands of families is now inthe hands of the Republican governor-elect.

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Either subsidized health insurance is here to stay, with orwithout the histrionics of Tea Party freedom fighters.

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Or the curb is about to get crowded.

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This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of theeditorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

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Copyright 2018 Bloomberg. All rightsreserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten,or redistributed.

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