Updated 2/3/2016. Original article omitted House District 98.
Answers on two political surveys have not been helpful in showing whether sitting Arkansas state legislators in the Republican Primary supports or opposes Obamacare’s Medicaid Expansion. We reviewed both the surveys and voting records.
Advance Arkansas Institute Survey – The AAI survey is a good resource but only a few sitting legislators responded. Worse yet three legislators responded they oppose “Medicaid Expansion / Private Option” when their voting records show support for Medicaid Expansion. The three with deceptive answers were Senator Eddie Joe Williams, who has voted for Medicaid Expansion every time; Senator Jane English who traded her vote in 2014, so that she became the deciding vote in the Senate to continue funding of Medicaid Expansion, and voted for the task force charged with recommending how to continue Medicaid Expansion; and Representative Jana Della Rosa who in her first term also voted for the task force.
Family Council Survey – The Family Council’s voter’s guide is always a good resource. Unfortunately, the question on Medicaid Expansion (appearing on its online version only) was written so narrowly it allowed every Medicaid Expansion supporter to answer “oppose” or “undecided”. The loophole occurred because the question only asked about support of Arkansas’ existing Medicaid Expansion program known as the Private Option. Since supporters of Medicaid Expansion want to rename “Private Option” as “Arkansas Works” with a few tweaks, supporters were able to say on the survey that they are opposed to continuing the Private Option as it exists today, despite supporting continuation of Medicaid Expansion. In addition, some legislators make the absurd claim that the Private Option and Arkansas Works are not Medicaid Expansion merely because benefits are administered by the state through insurance cards instead of Medicaid cards.
Voting Records on Medicaid Expansion
Legislative voting records show a much different picture.
Of the ten current Republican legislators in the Republican Primary, eight have voting records supporting Obamacare’s Medicaid Expansion – Rep. James Sturch, Rep Jana Della Rosa, Rep. Rebecca Petty, Rep. Sue Scott, Rep. Lance Eads, Rep. Ron McNair, Sen. Eddie Joe Williams, and Senator Jane English. Two have voting records opposing Medicaid Expansion – Rep. Josh Miller and Rep. Donnie Copeland. Rep. Copeland filed a bill to end Medicaid Expansion but the bill was bottled up in a House committee. Rep. Miller also filed a bill to end Medicaid Expansion. Several of the legislators listed are freshmen and only have voting records for 2015.
There are also five former legislators in the Republican primary. Two voted for Medicaid Expansion during their prior service – Andy Mayberry and Wes Wagner. Two voted against Medicaid Expansion – Debra Hobbs and Randy Alexander. The remaining former legislature did not serve during the period covered.
For those candidates who have not been in the legislature, check their campaign materials for more information on their positions. Some of the new candidates have clear statements against Medicaid Expansion no matter what you call it.
Democrat Primary elections have not been included because Democrats have consistently supported Medicaid Expansion under any name.
Explanation of Pro-Medicaid Expansion Bills in the chart
SB96 of 2015 – Those who wanted to continue Medicaid Expansion tried to fool voters into believing the bill would end Medicaid Expansion. Pursuant to its stated intent, SB96 of 2015 actually supported Medicaid Expansion. The bill not only derailed other bills that sought to end Medicaid Expansion in 2015, but it allowed the Private Option to continue through its original end date of December 2016 (under the 2013 Obamacare Medicaid Expansion Federal waiver.)
In addition, SB96 of 2015 established a pro-Medicaid Expansion task force to recommend how to continue Medicaid Expansion. A majority of the membership was appointed by Medicaid Expansion supporters. The first duty of the task force was to recommend how to continue benefits to the Medicaid Expansion beneficiaries. The task force adopted the Governor’s plan to rename the Private Option as “Arkansas Works” and making some tweaks that do not change the character of the program from Medicaid Expansion. Every tweak is subject to approval by Medicaid. Whether you call it “Private Option” or “Arkansas Works” it is still Medicaid Expansion and still covers a population that is overwhelmingly able bodied working age adults with no dependents and over 40% do not work at all.
SB111 of 2014 – This bill was the funding bill for the Medical Services Division of the Department of Human Services. Medicaid Expansion opponents held up the bill seeking to prohibit funding of Medicaid Expansion. Opponents in the House stopped funding six times (this bill & the companion House bill) before funding was approved. In the Senate, Senator Jane English traded her vote to then Governor Mike Beebe which made her vote the deciding vote to approve Medicaid Expansion in the Senate and sent the bill to the House of Representatives.
HB1143 & SB1020 of 2013 – These two identical bills authorized the original adoption of Obamacare’s Medicaid Expansion in Arkansas, provided the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) approved a wavier to allow Medicaid benefits to be run though insurance companies instead of through Medicaid cards. The federal government had already tentatively approved the plan to join Medicaid Expansion. The law was titled the Health Care Independence Act of 2013 and supporters of Medicaid Expansion dubbed it the “Private Option.”