Updated 11:14 AM 12/8/14
The Private Option was built on deception and supporters hope to use deception again to try to save it.
Deception 2013. In 2013, it was evident that Obamacare Medicaid Expansion would not be approved by the legislature. The answer to getting it approved came in the form of making Medicaid Expansion look like something different and calling it a “conservative alternative” to Medicaid Expansion. The modification let Arkansas deliver Medicaid Expansion through insurance companies instead of through the traditional delivery system. The legislation included a promise that the program would not be an entitlement program and included financial triggers that would automatically shut down the program if the federal share of the program was reduced. It was also asserted that the program was intended to help working families.
Although it was sold as a “conservative alternative”, what Arkansas got was merely a more expensive version of Obamacare Medicaid Expansion, a broken promise that it would not be an entitlement, a target population that was not working families, and financial triggers that cannot be pulled despite millions of dollars in cost overruns that without a bailout must eventually be paid by Arkansas.
Deception 2014. Opposition to the Obamacare Private Option continued to endanger the program in the 2014 Fiscal Session of the Legislature. To save the program legislative leadership and the Governor applies lots of pressure and the Governor made deals such as the highly publicized deal to gain the vote of Senator Jane English. In addition, supporters made small modifications that were meant to make the program appear more appealing to conservatives. What Arkansas got instead was: (1) An ineffective one year restriction on advertising the program, which didn’t work because, as predicted, other entities took on the task; and (2) Some more nice sounding triggers that would automatically end the progream if the federal government did not approve additional waivers. The triggers sounded tough but were never intended to be a serious threat to the program because the waivers were expected to be granted, and in the unlikely event the federal government did not approve the waivers, the authors made sure the trigger would not be pulled until the legislature had a chance to remove the trigger in the 2015 session.
Deception 2015. Senator Jonathan Dismang was one of the sponsors of Obamacare Private Option in 2013, which used the deception that it was a “conservative alternative” to Medicaid Expansion. Now he is the President Pro Tempore of the Senate. So what does he say about the Obamacare Private Option in 2015? Dismang told Talk Business “I think what it’s going to require, and something I would be supportive of, is additional changes, making sure it is as conservative of a model as we can.”[i] In other word, the plan in 2015 is more of the same deceptions as in 2013 and 2014.
Liberal Acceptance of Private Option Deceptions. A Democrat-Gazette editorial celebrated deception as a way to continue the Private Option.
“Any hope Gov.-elect Asa Hutchinson has of saving the private option is dependent on … well, deceiving a bit, recasting the program as a conservative alternative not liked at all by Obamacare liberals like Gruber.”
“I use the phrase “deceiving a bit,” because, actually, the private option is such a splendid blend of liberal and conservative that one can call it either and commit only mild deception.”[ii]
It is not a “splendid blend of liberal and conservative” or a mediocre blend, or even a bad blend. It is not a blend at all. It is merely a poor facade on a liberal big government program that will cost Arkansans hundreds of millions of dollars per year.
There is nothing conservative about the Obamacare Private Option.
- You can’t call it conservative when the Obamacare Private Option gives priority to able bodied working age people with no children over our elderly and disabled.
- You can’t call it conservative when you make the program even more expensive than if Obamacare Medicaid Expansion had been adopted without a waiver.
- You can’t call it conservative when you use it to guarantee income to insurance companies.
- You can’t call it conservative when the “conservative” modifications will put Arkansas on the hook for millions of dollars in cost overruns.
- You can’t call it conservative when even the projection of the state’s on consultants show that when Arkansas starts paying a portion in 2017, it is a budget buster.
More tweaks to the Obamacare Private Option in 2015 are not going to fool anyone nor will more toothless triggers. If someone is fooled by these tactics it is because he or she wants to be fooled.
The situation is very different from when the so-called “Private Option” appeared for the first time in the middle of the 2013 legislative session and Governor Beebe was threatening drastic cuts in the Medicaid program. Since then Arkansas has gone through an election cycle in which a number of candidates campaigned against the Private Option and defeated Private Option supporters, including one of the architects of the Obamacare Private Option. Voters also elected a congressional delegation that opposes Obamacare and guess what, the Private Option is part of Obamacare.
Obamacare Private Option supporters recognize the significant threat these new legislators pose to their big government program. Some supporters are now pushing the narrative that these candidates and the voters are just ignorant of why we must be tied to this huge liberal program. But, that is another story which will follow soon.
[ii] Good GOP, bad GOP ,John Brummett, Arkansas Democrat Gazette, 11/11/2014