"Moment of Truth"
Arkansas Republicans May Take Away Health Insurance From 100,000 People
Republicans in Arkansas are actively considering a plan to take away health coverage from tens of thousands of low-income people who just obtained insurance thanks to Obamacare.
Conservative Republicans in the state legislature have gotten reticent about approving a funding bill extending a program that has already signed almost 100,000 up for insurance coverage and expects to eventually help as many as 250,000 in total. It’s now unclear if the program will actually move forward, and if it does, it will not do so unscathed.
A bit of background. It’s in every state’s best interest to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, not only for the health of its residents but also for the strength of its economy. Still, 19 Republican-controlled state governments have all decided to put politics before people and refuse to accept federal funding for the expansion of health insurance coverage to low-income working people, with six more dragging their feet.
A recent study found that approximately six million Americans will be stuck without any health coverage at all because of this partisan refusal to expand Medicaid.
Arkansas, a state with a Democratic governor and Republican state legislature, developed a compromise last year that was heralded as a potential path forward for many conservatives against expanding the government program. The state decided that it would take the federal funds designated in the law for expanding Medicaid and use them to help low-income residents buy insurance on the private exchange. Since then, almost 100,000 Arkansas residents have signed up for the program to get covered. Other states have followed suit with similar models.
But that has almost been undone as some Republican legislators refuse to vote for the appropriations bill that would extend financing to the program for another year.
Lawmakers are working to find a compromise to save a program that was already a compromise itself — but details so far indicate that it’s far from perfect. One legislator very clearly traded her vote to get funding for a pet interest. Another, Rep. Nate Bell (R), offered an amendment that extends the private option but explicitly bans the state from doing any outreach on it. Bell, in his own words: “We’re trying to create a barrier to enrollment.” Inspiring stuff, right there.
Hopefully the bill will end up going through and the 96,000 individuals already receiving insurance from the program won’t lose it again. As one Arkansas Mary Frances Perkins, who has already used it to start getting the proper treatment for her Parkinson’s, said, “It would just be a nightmare. I would feel like my government had absolutely turned their back on me.”
BOTTOM LINE: Arkansas needs to do the right thing and extend its private option for expanding health insurance to low-income residents. It would be a travesty if almost 100,000 individuals already benefiting from the program went back to being uninsured simply because of partisan politics. But even it does pass, it’s outrageous that the state’s Republicans are so explicit about their attempts to sabotage the law and undercut the compromise they themselves reached less than a year ago.