ALL EYES ON THE BOARD: A critical vote today on Medicaid expansion.

A coalition of  representatives of religious, labor and grassroots groups have issued a statement urging the Arkansas House to approve continuation of the expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare by a plan known as the private option. It is, they said, a moral and human rights issue.

The statement, prepared for a rally canceled because of weather, said in part:


This is a moral and human rights issue. Every person in Arkansas deserves affordable access to healthcare. Because of the private option in the Affordable Care Act, Arkansas now helps over 100,000 people purchase healthcare coverage. Up to 150,000 other Arkansans need the same help. Full reauthorization of the private option expansion to the Medicaid budget doesn’t cost Arkansas taxpayers a cent. But it will help 150,000 Arkansans who can’t afford to purchase healthcare coverage for themselves and their families to get it, and will help more than 100,000 Arkansans who now have affordable healthcare coverage keep it.

Please urge our legislators to immediately and unconditionally reauthorize expansion of the private option benefits in the state Medicaid budget.

How we treat our neighbors, the group said, “defines our morality and humanity.” 

The Arkansas House is expected to vote a fifth time today on the Medicaid expansion appropriation. It needs 75 of the 100 votes for passage. To date, it has mustered support of 73. A proposed rule — not part of the legislation — to limit the enrollment period for private insurance coverage each year is the latest offer to the holdouts to bring additional votes. But some of the holdouts object to a provision of the rule that would allow those who missed the enrollment period to enroll in conventional Medicaid, the insurance coverage for the poorest people. At its root, the holdouts don’t want to spend federal money on insuring more poor people. Many, if not all of them, are religious conservatives who cite Biblical teachings for any number of policy matters, including abortion and gay rights. They see no faith implications, merely budgetary ones, in votes on providing for the least among us.


Another failed vote today likely will end meaningful legislation deliberations either by recess or adjournment. Then the legislature will come back and face the task of making deep budget cuts throughout state government to make up for the loss of federal money that otherwise would come to Arkansas through Medicaid expansion. The pressure, it is thought, might be a final alternative to bring in a couple of holdouts. 

Signing the statement were: 


Adjoa Aiyetoro, a law professor.
Neil Sealy, Arkansas Community Organization
Leroy James, Retired United Church of Christ Pastor
Furonda Brasfield, Beautiful Productions
Howard “Flash” Gordan, Minster Emeritus First Presbyterian Church
Judge Wendell Griffen, Pastor New Millennium Church
Randi Romo, Exec. Director CAR
Melba Collins, Retired AFL-CIO
Johnny Hasan
Donna Massey, Arkansas Community Organization
Gordon Brehm, Retired Steelworkers
Toney Orr, State Director, United Labor Unions, Local 100
W. Mondale, Exec. Director Conyers Institute of Public Policy

PS — Misinformation continues to pour in about heath spending, particularly on efforts to control the insurance industry-driven rising cost of Medicare advantage.