Things were moving in the right direction at the State Capitol on Monday (January 26, 2015).
- Senator Linda Collins-Smith filed SB144, which is a strong bill to end Arkansas’ Obamacare Medicaid Expansion (Private Option). It would end as of December 31, 2015. This is the bill many conservatives have been waiting for.
- Also, today Senator Jim Hendren amended his SB96 to clarify that his bill does not extend coverage to the Medicaid expansion population, under the Private Option, past December 31, 2016. This is a step in the right direction and Senator Hendren deserves praise for strengthening his bill and alleviating some concerns.
Conduit for Action applauds both Senator Collins-Smith and Senator Hendren for their actions on Monday.
Conduit for Action strongly supports Senator Linda Collins-Smith’s SB144. The bill ends the Private Option at the end of this year. DHS is required to notify enrollees that the program is ending and to make needed changes in the state Medicaid plan. The bill also authorizes the freezing of enrollment to help transition to repeal.
Obamacare opponents in other states are hoping Arkansas will take this kind of decisive action. It will help them tremendously in their fight against Obamacare.
Senator Jim Hendren responded to criticism that his bill could be interpreted as continuing Obamacare Medicaid Expansion indefinitely. He provided clarification in several spots in the bill saying it does not extend Medicaid Expansion, under the Private Option, after December 31, 2016. While some vagueness still remains in this language, we think he is genuinely trying to correct the wording on this point.
SB144 or SB96
While SB96 by Senator Hendren has improved, there remain several weaknesses as compared to SB144 by Senator Collins-Smith, including:
- Under SB96, a primary goal of the task force appears to be to recommend a new plan to continue to cover Private Option enrollees. While the bill ends the program on December 31, 2016 the task force appears to be looking to develop new legislation to replace it. What do you think? Here is an example (see Page 4, lines 21-25): “Recommend an alternative healthcare coverage model and legislative framework to ensure the continued availability of healthcare services for vulnerable populations covered by the Health Care Independence Program established by the Health Care Independence Act of 2013, §§ 20-77- 25 2401 et seq., upon program termination;” Meanwhile, SB144 by Senator Collins-Smith envisions 2015 to be the end of Obamacare Medicaid Expansion in Arkansas.
- SB96 has a December 31, 2016 end date which is the same date the current Private Option waiver would end anyway without legislation. SB144 sends a clear message by ending Obamacare Medicaid expansion in Arkansas a year earlier.
- SB96 extends the Private Option to December 31, 2016 which allows a considerable period for continued growth of the Private Option. SB144 avoids this problem by ending the program a year earlier and allowing a freeze in enrollment as part of the shutdown process.