LOUISVILLE -- Democrat Andy Beshear offered a vigorous defense of Kentucky's Medicaid expansion, warning Monday that health care policy is at stake when voters choose between him and Republican Gov. Matt Bevin.

After touring an addiction treatment center, Beshear said increasing Medicaid rolls made rehabilitation programs available to more people in a state fighting severe drug-abuse problems.

The Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act was set into motion in Kentucky by Beshear's father, former Gov. Steve Beshear, but Bevin has been a frequent critic of its implementation. It has become a flash point in the state's combative governor's race to be decided Nov. 5.

The Democratic challenger continued lashing out at Bevin's proposed Medicaid waiver, which would require some "able-bodied" Medicaid recipients to get a job, go to school or volunteer to keep their benefits.

"The governor's Medicaid waiver is going to result in people losing coverage that would otherwise be getting services here or elsewhere," Andy Beshear told reporters at the Centerstone facility in downtown Louisville.

Medicaid is a joint federal and state health care program for poor and disabled people. Former President Barack Obama's signature health care law allowed states to expand the program to include adults with no children.

Beshear's father used an executive order to expand Medicaid coverage while he was governor. His order increased Kentucky's Medicaid rolls by more than 400,000 people, many getting coverage for the first time.

In a state plagued by high rates of cancer and other diseases, the uninsured rate dropped dramatically after the Affordable Care Act, also known as "Obamacare," was implemented.

Bevin has said the Medicaid expansion was too expensive. He gave a stout defense of his proposed Medicaid waiver during an exchange with Beshear at a debate last week. The governor said his objective is to ensure that the medically frail and disabled "do not lose out" on coverage.

"I am a strong proponent of able-bodied, working-aged men and women who do not have dependents and have the capability of going to work to go to work in exchange for that which is provided for them by people who do go to work," Bevin said.

A federal judge blocked the work requirements and Bevin's administration is appealing.

Beshear, the state's attorney general, says Bevin's proposal would result in at least 95,000 people losing coverage. Beshear says most Medicaid recipients at risk of losing coverage are already working. He vows to rescind Bevin's proposal if he's elected, warning that scaling back Medicaid coverage would undermine rural hospitals.

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