Epilogue SB96 – Obamacare Medicaid Expansion Continues

Epilogue 2015

Opponents of the Obamacare Medicaid Expansion (Private Option) are wondering what happened to the effort to end the big government program. There is also a lot of political spin being made on why why SB96 was passed.

This article addresses both those issues. and closes this chapter on  SB96 and its continuation of Arkansas as an Obamacare Medicaid Expansion state.



With what seemed to be a solid core of returning legislators who were opposed to Obamacare Medicaid Expansion (Private Option) in 2013 and 2014 and an influx of freshmen legislators who campaigned against Obamacare, it looked like opponents would be able to defund the program in 2015.  Legislators came close in their efforts to defund it in both 2014 and 2015.

As the 2015 legislative session began, opponents found themselves in a tough position – continue to work to defund the program or support Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson who wanted to: (1) Continue the Private Option to the end of 2016 when it was scheduled to end anyway; and (2) Create a task force to work on a new plan to keep Arkansas an Obamacare Medicaid Expansion state after 2016.  Many decided to support the governor despite having been a staunch opponent of Obamacare.  SB96 adopted the governor’s plan, now being referred to as “Asa Care”.  And the appropriation bill that could have been blocked to force defunding has also passed.

Obamacare Medicaid Expansion has been continued unabated; and the fight appears to be over this session. In the following two years more people will be enrolled; and it will be even harder to end this big government program as we near the time forArkansas to start making its contributions to support this budget busting program.  Any costs saving that we had hoped for from a Republican administration are now likely to be funneled back into helping Arkansas pay for Obamacare Medicaid Expansion.


Shortly after SB96 passed the House of Representatives, the chair of the Democrat Party of Arkansas congratulated the legislature for continuing Obamacare Medicaid Expansion (Private Option) and chided Republicans who campaigned against the program while voting for it in SB96.  Legislators who had voted against Obamacare Medicaid Expansion in the past but voted for SB96, were also quick to claim that SB96 was the only reasonable way to attack the program. (Attack it by continuing it.)

Since claims by some SB96 supporters are causing public confusion, Conduit for Action will close this chapter with a list oftheir claims. There were three distinct groups that supported SB96: (1) Democrats, (2) Republicans who voted for the Private Option in 2013 & 2014 or who supported it in their 2014 campaign; and (3) Republicans who voted against the Private option in 2013 & 2014 or who campaigned against it in 2014.  It is only the claim of this last group that is addressed below


CLAIM #1:  There were more than enough votes for SB96 to pass so what good would a No vote accomplish?Are you only going to vote for a sure thing or stand up for your principles.  
CLAIM #2 :  Bills were offered to end the Private Option by the end of 2015 but they didn't get enough votes to get out of committee. So, SB96 was the only option.SB144 would have been the option to end the PO in 2015 if a Senator who voted to defund the Private Option in 2014 had not flipped and only voted for SB96. His vote would have made it a vote of 4 FOR & 2 NO.  (Why was it debated among some of the original “No PO” Senators whether to run the repeal bill at all?)
CLAIM #3 :  SB96 was the only bill that could be voted on that has a PO end date.The strategy was to keep SB144 in committee so that SB96 would be the only bill  on the subject . The statement ignores the strategy that almost worked in 2013 and 2014. The strategy in 2014 was merely to stop funding by denying PO supporters the 75% vote needed. If (alleged) opponents of the PO had stuck with this strategy the appropriation could have been blocked and PO supporters brought to the negotiation table for an actual compromise and wind down.
CLAIM #4:  SB96 ends the Private Option on 12/31/2016.Stop! It did nothing. Even without SB96 the federal waiver for the Private Option ends 12/31/2016.  (This is simply “messaging” to the voter.) 
CLAIM #5 :  By voting for SB96, conservatives now can and will influence the Task Force to find conservative solutions.Fifteen of the 16 appointments on the task force will be made by legislators who voted FOR the Private Option in 2013 and 2014. As stated before, the task force has the duty of figuring out a way to keep Arkansas as an Obamacare Medicaid Expansion state. The idea that there would be conservative solutions within the Obamacare program was touted in 2013 and it was called the Private Option and there is nothing conservative about it.
CLAIM #6 :  If an acceptable solution is not found by the 2016 Budget Session, which starts in February 2016, then conservative Republicans will vote to defund the PO, thereby ending it for lack of money to pay the premiums.The timing just doesn’t add up. SB96 allows the task force to file it’s final report as late as December 30, 2016! This means the recommendations and a special session may not come until after the 2016 elections.
CLAIM #7:  A repeal of the PO before the waiver ends December 31, 2016 would lead to class action lawsuits by enrollees.Wrong. The PO law makes enrollees acknowledge that they understand the program can be ended. In addition, federal terms and conditions for the waiver recognize that the state may end the PO early. (See CFA article - Assertions on why Private Option can’t be repealed in 2015: WRONG)
CLAIM #8:  There is no possible way to end the Private Option for 6 to 8 months after the law is effective and that means Arkansas could not repeal before March 2016.In 2014 the Department of Human Services acknowledged that the PO could be quickly terminated by merely changing the state Medicaid plan. (See CFA article - Assertions on why Private Option can’t be repealed in 2015: WRONG)
CLAIM #9:  If the Private Option were to end today Arkansas would have to pay millions to the federal government.While this assertion has been made without anything to back it up, possibly they are referring to a year of cost overruns in the Private Option. Conduit for Action has consistently pointed out that the Private Option law in 2013 did not provide for a cost overrun exception to the requirement that the federal government pay 100% through 2016.
CLAIM #10:  Trust us - it is a vote against the Private Option.Read the legislation. SB96 does NOTHING to end the PO and sets up a task force charged with continuing Obamacare Medicaid Expansion in some form.