Gov. Mike Beebe has unilaterally declared his support today for the state’s participation in an expansion of Medicaid. This is an expansion that will help hundreds of thousands of Arkansans; it will be paid mostly by the federal government; estimates say it will save Arkansas money in the existing operation of the Medicaid program for poor and elderly, a huge percentage of them formerly middle income working Arkansans who now depend on home care or nursing homes to survive. Beebe has received assurances that the state can dial back its participation if federal support falters. (“Dial back” is actually inaccurate. The state can opt out entirely, though not necessarily reduce participation incrementally.)
Said Beebe according to news coverage:
“I think it’s good for our people because it’s helping folks that don’t have insurance now that are working their tails off. They’re not sitting on a couch somewhere asking for something.”
To employ a cliche that truly applies to this situation: It’s a no-brainer.
Which means the Republican howls of outrage should follow shortly. Every man for himself. Screw the sick, poor and elderly. I’ve got mine. Let them get theirs. And so on. No brains required.
Those doctors vexed by the state’s effort to make the Medicaid program more efficient, as they lamented so pitifully in a weekend Democrat-Gazette article? See how vexed they’ll be to make a living if they fight Medicaid expansion and swallow hundreds of millions in cuts required if Arkansas does NOT reshape Medicaid and does NOT accept expanded federal dollars. The Republican federal budget plan calls for a devastating reduction in Medicaid. See how THAT vexes them.
Here’s an interesting question: Would Republican Arkansas legislators be more likely to stand in the way of implementing better health care for 250,000 Arkansans as members of the majority or minority in the 2013 legislature? Blood would be on their hands either way, but, in the majority, it would be even more indelible. Maybe it would do them a favor to turn back their takeover effort. It would certainly be good for the health of Arkansans.
Beebe emphasized, as I have before, that marginal legislative control is irrelevant in this issue. 75 percent votes will be necessary to adopt a Medicaid budget, so a small minority can kill it regardless. They’ll be voting then, Beebe noted, for the likely life or death of rural hospitals. This might alter Republican thoughts then, though, for now, the GOP shills are beating the anti-Obama drums already as loudly as I predicted.
PS — Some Democratic legislative candidates are also expressing reluctance to support Medicaid expansion, Republicans have so poisoned the well on something in the public interest.