In 2013, the Arkansas legislature passed Act 1500, the Arkansas Health Insurance Marketplace Act. The nice title means legislators authorized the creation of a state run Obamacare Exchange. The law hasn’t been talked about much (especially by Republicans who voted for it and who wanted to pretend they had been fighting against Obamacare).
On Thursday of this week the Arkansas Democrat Gazette reported, “The director of a state-created nonprofit exploring a possible state-run health insurance exchange said she will recommend next month that the board request $91 million to $133 million in federal grant money to pay for the exchange’s setup costs.” (Emphasis added) The statement was by Cheryl Smith, director of the Arkansas Health Insurance Marketplace, established by Act 1500.
Do you think this step is being taken because Marketplace staff have realized that an Obamacare Exchange will be a wonderful move? Probably not. Actually, the state was on this road as soon as the legislature passed the law. The emergency clause of the Act says, “the state has elected to create a state-based marketplace effective on July 1, 2015”.
The Arkansas Health Insurance Marketplace Board of Directors is made up of appointees by Governor Mike Beebe, Speaker of the House Davy Carter, and President Pro Tempore, Michael Lamoureux, all of whom supported both the state Obamacare Exchange law and the Obamacare Private Option. Don’t worry; the board’s work will be reviewed by the Arkansas Health Insurance Marketplace Legislative Oversight Committee made up of legislators who voted to expand government through both Act 1500 and the Obamacare Private Option.
Perhaps the announcement this week was dictated by the timeline needed to create the Obamacare Exchange by July 1, 2015. On the other hand, it is interesting to note that the announcement came just days after one federal court said Obama has to follow the law and only provide subsidies to people in states with state-based Obamacare Exchanges. (The subsidy issue is not yet resolved and there will be appeals of conflicting rulings by federal courts.)
Some have noted that there seems to be a rush to complete the process before 2015 when it is likely that there will be a Republican Governor and an increase in the Republican majorities in the Arkansas House of Representative and Arkansas Senate.
Arkansas appears to be well on its way to join a program that has a dismal record. Few states created a state-based Obamacare Exchange.
In addition, Arkansas will be out of step with recent developments that find some states moving from a state-based Obamacare Exchange to the federal exchange after the states waisted hundreds of millions of dollars to implement their own exchange. In Oregon the state-based Obamacare Exchange failed and Oregon is moving to the federal exchange, which means people have to start over with enrollment. Nevada is also dumping its state Obamacare Exchange and going with the federal exchange in 2015.
Maryland spent $90 million dollars on a system that didn’t work, but Maryland decided to spend even more money to purchase a system from Connecticut and people in Maryland will still have to enroll again.
Hey don’t worry about the $133 million dollars that is being proposed to create the Arkansas Obamacare Exchange. It’s FREE federal grant money! With a $17.6 TRILLION dollar federal deficit you will only be paying for it for the rest of your life, and the federal government can steal the rest of the money from future generations of taxpayers.
Don’t worry that an Arkansas Obamacare exchange may increase costs with decreased efficiency – the state’s gotta get moving before more conservative Republicans arrive at the state Capitol!