The Arkansas Democratic Party, a tiny minority in the legislature these days, issued a statement yesterday critical of Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s proposed changes in the Medicaid expansion financed by Obamacare.
Hutchinson’s key proposals cleared committee on the opening day of what is expected to be a mostly cut-and-dried session. He would allow only those who make 100 percent of the federal poverty level or less, rather than 138 percent, eligible for Medicaid coverage and he’d add a work requirement and premiums to those who remain covered. The moves will dramatically reduce the number of people covered. At least 60,000 won’t meet the income requirement. Other changes could discourage others. That will reduce the state’s cost sharing, eventually about 10 percent of the program.
The Democratic Party called the changes “regressive” and “detrimental to working Arkansans.”
From DPA Chairman Michael John Gray:
“This is purely a political move. This doesn’t seem like a move based on fiscal policy. This is playing to the base and it’s hurting working Arkansans in the process. The Governor is telling any Arkansan who aspires to make more than $12,060 a year that they are on their own. He’s telling every hospital, that is just now beginning to rein in costs of uncompensated care, here’s another roadblock. For every health insurer, who wants to enter the Arkansas marketplace, here is one more market disruption.”
From State Senator Joyce Elliott:
“My fundamental issue with this process is that once again we are playing hurry-up government with issues that are absolutely critical to the people of Arkansas. The Governor’s plan is to kick 60,000 Arkansans off his or her health insurance with no clear plan in place to help them. With no apology, we send 60,000 Arkansans into the wilderness to fend for themselves.”
There’d been some concern ahead of the vote that a Democrat, Sen. Eddie Cheatham, could present an obstacle in Senate committee to the work requirement. But though he and another Democrat, Sen. Stephanie Flowers, had questions, neither voiced audible opposition when the bill was approved on a voice vote. Cheatham said the bill would save state money and encourage people to work. He said he believed the thrust was “not to kick people off insurance.” But of course, that is EXACTLY the thrust — 60,000 worth. The governor says the working poor no longer eligible for coverage will be free to sign up for federal subsidies in the health insurance marketplace. Substantial questions remain about the continuation of those subsidies and whether they can provide comparable coverage at the same cost to those covered.