The latest amendment being discussed to win the critical votes to pass the Arkansas version of Medicaid expansion under Obamacare is another bad idea.
As David Ramsey has reported, an idea being floated to win support from a couple of the 27 Republican holdouts in the House — where 73 of the needed 75 votes have been mustered — is to require an enrollment period for people newly eligible for private insurance coverage under a broader Medicaid program. If eligible people miss the enrollment period, they get regular Medicaid and can try again in a future year for private insurance.
Well, you might cheer this in one respect. Straight Medicaid is cheaper than coverage under the profit-making private insurance business. A factor unadvertised by the Republican proponents of the “private option” is that their plan probably increased the price rage of expanding medical coverage for working poor. So, in theory, the same number of people can be covered, some more cheaply.
But here’s the real problem: It is Rep. Nate Bell’s earlier amendment to prohibit advertisement or outreach to get people to sign up. He fully intends to strangle the program. He honestly admits he hopes to kill it next year. His amendment, which supposedly was to bring sufficient votes to approve the legislation this year, brought only Nate Bell. Some power broker.
In any case, the proposal is now to limit enrollment periods for a program about which the state can’t provide information. The new enrollment periods will be, effectively, a secret as far as the state is concerned, unless you know where to go to ask the right person the magic question.
“If we’ve already agreed not to fund outreach and publicity efforts, it’s going to be very difficult to let the people of Arkansas know when they can enroll in the plan,” said Rep. Warwick Sabin, D-Little Rock.
The hope is that private insurers will step in and do the outreach. They will do some, of course. Because they are going to reap a windfall profit from having more people to insure with reliable government money.
Latest predictions, by the way, are that the dead-enders will propose their amendment to effectively shut down the private option after this year. It will be soundly defeated. Then the effort to add the latest ill-conceived amendment, described above, will begin. Private option authorization is expected to pass Tuesday.* Not Monday. Legislators want the dust to settle from the end of election filing at noon Monday.
* — If one more vote on the private option fails, chaos ensues. The Democrats have grown tired of being John Burris/ patsy.