Private Option – Not Enough Votes to Continue

.Updated 12/17/2014

Thethe-end1re isn’t enough support to continue Private Option. This was the assessment of the media and liberal blogs after the 2014 election.

It took intense deal making and browbeating before the legislature approved funding in 2014 and there were no votes to spare. Voters finally had a chance to weigh in on the issue in the 2014 elections where they rejected a number of pro-Obamacare Private Option legislators. Now there are more than enough “no” votes to end the program.

Despite the new political reality, supporters of the big government program haven’t given up.  Their only hope is to change the minds of a number of legislators, many of whom can tout the backing of their constituents.  So far, the hopes of Obamacare Private Option supporters have been placed on three ideas:

  1. Supporters say new legislators who oppose the PO have not yet become enlightened.
  2. Supporters promise “conservative” tweaks.
  3. Supporters hope Governor Asa Hutchinson will come to their rescue.

Pretty weak stuff, especially when they know a number of new legislators campaigned against the Obamacare Private Option.

pineal-dollarNew legislators have not yet become enlightened. Incredibly, some supporters have tried to tell freshmen legislators who oppose the Obamacare program, that they and their constituents are just ignorant of the facts as to why the PO must be continued. This assertion is a direct slap in the face to returning legislators who still oppose the Obamacare Private Option because by implication it insinuates that these veteran legislators are still too ignorant or stubborn to understand the benefits of the PO.

In an interview, Senator Johnathan Dismang said:

“I think we’re just at a point where we have so many new members and this is a pretty complex subject. I know that the up-or-down, yes-or-no [vote] is typically what’s out in the conversation, but really it is complex. It will impact a lot of different things. Right now, I think it is too early to really say what direction those members – those new members – would like to take,” said Dismang.[i]

This is similar to the theme Dismang adopted when Scott Flippo defeated one of the architects of the Obamacare Private Option for a Senate seat in the Republican primary:

“I understand that this is his [Scott Flippo’s] central plank, but at the same time there’s a difference between campaigning and legislating,” said Sen. Jonathan Dismang, R-Beebe, who also helped develop the compromise expansion plan.”[ii] (Emphasis added)

It seems bizarre to argue that newly elected opponents of the Obamacare Private Option just don’t have enough information considering supporters flooded the news media with anything resembling good news for the Private Option, and considering that the Private Option was THE main issue in several races. It is illogical to think supporters held back any arguments for the PO (budget or otherwise) when they saw a number of Private Option supporters fall behind in political polls.

Do supporters have some special form of “Obamacare Gnosticism” that can only be handed down by them? Or, is the knowledge they refer to just another name for “deal making”?

Conservative tweaks.  Conduit for Action previously discussed the fallacy of the argument that conservative tweaks will transform the program. (Read here) The Private Option was sold in 2013 as a “conservative alternative” to Obamacare Medicaid expansion, but what we got was a more expensive version of the Obamacare Medicaid Expansion.  Additional “conservative” tweaks were added in order to pass funding in 2014, but the tweaks didn’t even amount to a bump in a road and certainly did not change the character of the entitlement program.

Will Asa come to the rescue?  PO supporters are hoping Governor Asa Hutchinson will weigh in for the Obamacare Private Option and win over opponents during the Governor’s “honeymoon” period with the legislature. Supporters claim there will be a $100 million hole in the state budget if the program is ended and therefore ruin Governor Hutchinson’s plans to make tax cuts.

Where is the mystery data to support the claim? Skepticism on this is well deserved on this idea. PO opponents have not forgotten the alleged $460 million dollar Medicaid hole that Governor Beebe and DHS head John Selig used to leverage votes for the Obamacare Private Option, or how the budget hole miraculously disappeared before any PO funds made their way to Arkansas.

Let’s not forget that even if you accept the assertion: (1) The alleged savings would be diminished by the millions in cost overruns that are accumulating every month; and (2) The budget busting PO obligations are just around the corner when Arkansas must pay 5% and then 10% of the costs.

It is a bit amusing that some PO supporters who claim the alleged budget hole would work against tax cuts are also pushing for millions for their own priorities.  For example, Democrat legislator and PO supporter, Senator Uvalde Lindsey cited the alleged budget hole and in the same forum urged $16 million more for pre-kindergarten education.[iii]

Three questions come to mind concerning the idea that the Governor will support the PO.

  1. After campaigning against the Obamacare Private Option would freshmen legislators really be so quick to flip-flop just to please their governor?
  2. Does Governor Hutchinson really wants to expend his political capital on a big government entitlement program and risk alienating some in his Republican base?
  3. Doesn’t the PO conflict with the Governor’s goals of economic growth and job creation? The PO target population is also the population that should most benefit from job creation. (Updated: Nationwide the 45% of target population do not work and 82% do not have children.  The target population in Arkansas is similar to the population nation wide.  In Arkansas 46% of the target population do not work 71.35% do not have children.) The budget busting PO will take away from the state’s abilty to continue to fund other programs, including programs for economic development and job creation.


The question the media is not asking is: Can PO supporters hang on to their “yes” votes?

It is one thing to vote for an experiment.  It is another to vote for it again when the experiment has been shown for what it is – a failed big government program. The 2014 election was not kind to those PO supporters who faced conservative opponents.  With conservatives emboldened by the 2014 elections and already talking about 2016, are some PO supporters looking for a way to get on the record as voting to end the PO?

In addition to trying to hang on to their “Yes” votes, PO supporters have the task of convincing new legislators to begin their political career (and possibly end it) with a flip-flop.




[iii] Private option called budget key, Arkansas Democrat Gazette, 12/09/2014