Last year Arkansas became part of a new vision in supplying health care to the very poor with the launch of the private option model for Medicaid recipients, it was passed at the time by a super majority in both houses of the state legislature. This year with new seats gained in the legislature by radical right candidates the far right has launched an effort to seek revenge on the enemy by overturning the program, thereby stripping nearly 100,000 newly insured of their coverage.
The private option which was approved at the federal level last February allows states to use the money that would have been spent providing medical coverage to qualifying recipients to purchase a health insurance policy from a private insurer for them. With the bi-partisan support that the plan received last year it was seen as a program with a clear path to success.
The problem is that in order to continue the program, the legislature must grant its approval to accept the federal funds which pay for it on a yearly basis and those on the fringe who see Obamacare as the most despicable thing to be inflicted on mankind ever see this as an opportunity to exact vengeance on those who have forced it upon them.
The super majority in the state Senate last year was achieved with one vote to spare and that vote was lost last summer when Senator Paul Bookout (D-Jonesboro) was forced to resign in a scandal over the misuse of campaign funds. He was replaced in a special election in January by Republican John Cooper whose entire campaign was based on fanatical opposition to the program.
That alone would only make the vote tighter but still enough to keep the program alive, however, Senator Missy Irvin (R-Mountain View) who voted yes last year, expressed disappointment with the program the same week that Cooper won his seat. A few days later she issued a statement saying, “While opposed to further public dependence on government programs, I had been convinced that the private option might be a ﬁrst step in the right direction. I now see it is leading us in the wrong direction.”
Irvin’s about-face may be related to the fact that there is talk of a possible primary challenge from Phil Grace of Heber Springs who is in adamant opposition to the public option.
This is enough to take away the super majority support for the measure last year.
If the legislature does not approve acceptance of the federal funds this year those who have been covered, mostly for the first time in their lives will lose that coverage next year. The state says that approximately 85,000 have been insured through the program. These are people who are not eligible for subsidies under Obamacare because their income is below the poverty line and the intent of the law as written was that they would be covered by Medicaid expansion.
Apparently the loss of support among Republicans who previously voted in favor of the expansion is largely due to the decision by Blue Cross Blue Shield which is the provider contracted by the state to provide these policies, to reduce payments to specialists.
If there was any doubt that this is really all about opposing President Obama and Obamacare in particular, one need only look at what newly elected Senator Cooper has to say on the subject:
[box type=”shadow”]”ObamaCare is among the worst legislation ever passed. I do not think that Obamacare is now or ever has been truly about who gets what and how much it will cost. I believe that the real question is if our health care system under ObamaCare will be destroyed in this country for everyone! I think that question only has one answer and it is yes.”[/box]