The right option for Medicaid

On February 24, 2014

The election of State Senator John Cooper in the Senate District 21 special election is already having an effect in Little Rock.

Tuesday at 1:30 p.m., the Arkansas House will again vote on whether or not the state will continue its ‘Private Option’ program, which expands Medicaid access to low income Arkansans.

The House has voted multiple times on the measure but has failed to reach the supermajority of 75 votes required to continue the program despite wide bipartisan support.

The program in its entirety could be derailed by the far-right wing of the Arkansas Republican Party, including newly elected Senator Cooper, who are acting far outside of the party leaderships expectations.

Republican Speaker of the House Davy Carter made Forbes magazine by saying the House would vote repeatedly on the measure until they “got it right.”

The general sense of frustration felt by both parties’ leadership, embodied by Carter’s quote, is justified.

A brief review of the data released on the program shows Arkansas’ innovative, bipartisan solution to expanding healthcare access is working.

A RAND Corporation study predicts by 2016 over 400,000 people, most of whom had no previous access to insurance, will be covered by the program.

The program already covers 100,000 low-income Arkansans.

These 100,000 people will lose that access if Cooper and his allies in the House succeed.

Aside from leaving this sizable group of citizens to fate’s whim, without the program over 50 million in state dollars will have to be reallocated to accommodate even the basic Arkansas Medicaid program.

These are dollars that can’t be spent on higher education, on infrastructure development, or in other preventative programs offered by the DHS.

As a recent letter to Senator Cooper in the Jonesboro Sun pointed out, even if these cuts aren’t made by the legislature in response to the new hole in the budget there will be significant concerns for Arkansas State.

Arkansas has a balanced budget by law, and if the Legislature can’t make cuts large enough to compensate for this recklessness then the Revenue Stabilization Act will activate, translating to drastic cuts “across the board.”

I’ve found most of the opposition to the new program in the local area seems to be rooted in a strident ignorance of what the program actually is or does.

However, this same excuse can’t be extended to the Republican naysayers in the House.

They know the program offers Arkansas citizens the right to seek out and utilize private insurance and use Medicaid dollars to subsidize that insurance.

This solution is clearly conservative in the traditional sense, grounded in the idea that private insurance companies can provide the same care as a government agency - but more efficiently.

Few issues are as local or as meaningful as this one.

It is crucial not to let a small faction of ideologues hijack the democratic process of your state.

Don’t let a small group of well-to-do men dictate which of the impoverished live or die.

Call your representative and your senator today and let them know the private option is not a partisan solution; it’s the right solution.


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