I really wish I could say something good about SB96, especially since it appears to be on its way to becoming law. I wish I could say there is some compromise in SB96 that begins to inch Arkansas toward ending Arkansas’ participation in Obamacare Medicaid expansion, but it does not.
In 2013, Obamacare supporters used deception to make Arkansas an Obamacare Medicaid Expansion state. The Private Option was touted as being a “conservative alternative” to Obamacare Medicaid Expansion. Clearly, the Private Option was just a more expensive version of Obamacare Medicaid Expansion and not an alternative.
Today, Thursday, February 5, 2015, the Arkansas House of Representative is expected to vote on Senate Bill 96. The claim this year is that SB96 ends Obamacare Medicaid Expansion in Arkansas. It does not. Instead, it keeps the Private Option (one form of Obamacare Medicaid Expansion) until the federal waiver would expire anyway (December 31, 2016), and sets up a task force to work on new legislation to continue covering the Obamacare Medicaid Expansion population after the current waiver ends.
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Even without SB96, the current authorization for the Obamacare Medicaid Expansion program ends at exactly the same time, December 31, 2016. With or without SB96 a new law is necessary to keep Medicaid Expansion going after December 31, 2016. SB96 even admits this fact.
WHEREAS, the Arkansas Health Care Independence Program and the federal waiver under which the state operates the Arkansas Health Care Independence Program will terminate on December 31, 2016, which will have the effect of ending eligibility for Medicaid expansion populations in the absence of legislative action by the General Assembly;
So why bother having SB96? Supporters of the Obamacare Medicaid Expansion want the bill to set up a task force with the goal of keeping Obamacare Medicaid Expansion coverage going after 2016.
Appointments: The appointing authorities are: President Pro Tempore of the Senate, Speaker of the House, and the majority and minority party chairs and whips. Prior to this legislation, every one of these people (with the exception of the Majority Leader of the Senate) voted for the Private Option in 2013 and 2014.
Duties: The primary duty of the task force is to find a way to keep covering the Obamacare Medicaid Expansion. Here are some of the duties. When you read the words “Arkansas Health Independence Act” below, that is the enabling legislation for the Private Option.
(d)(1)(A) 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, §§ 20-77-2401 et seq., upon program termination;
(d)(2) (B) Identify the populations eligible for and participating in the Health Care Independence Program, including both: (i) Individuals newly eligible for health coverage under the program; and (ii) Individuals previously eligible for Medicaid before the effective date of the program, whether under a Medicaid waiver or some other eligibility criteria;
(d)(2)(C) Study the healthcare needs and other relevant characteristics of those populations served by the Health Care Independence Program;
(d)(2)(D) Recommend measures and options to preserve access to quality health care for those populations served by the Health Care Independence Program;
Why is SB96 politically attractive?
SB96 allows supporters to get past the 2016 elections.
- It allows legislators to pretend “I voted to repeal Obamacare Medicaid Expansion”, while not changing when the federal waiver would end anyway.
- The Task Force can delay its final report until after the 2016 elections. The final report can be filed as late as December 30, 2016.
- Since the Private Option doesn’t end until December 31, 2016, it is possible to wait to hold a special session until after the 2016 election and then vote on the task force recommendations to continue Obamacare Medicaid Expansion as the Private Option or in another form.
Are you for expanding government or for limiting government? An unequivocal repeal would have sent a strong statement limiting government. SB96 works to keep the expansion of government.