Arkansas Legislator Continues the Battle to Torpedo Obamacare
It’s two months into the 2014 calendar year, and the battle for conservative lawmakers to try to tank the Affordable Care Act continues. Republicans have mostly given up their talking points regarding the failures of the websites when it came to enrolling Americans into new insurance plans. Now, with little else to go on, enemies of Obamacare are focusing their attention on placing as many roadblocks as possible between their own constituents and affordable health insurance.
A number of red state governors such as Ohio’s John Kasich and Arizona’s Jan Brewer have now given in to the idea of allowing the federal government’s Medicaid expansion to go forward, admitting that the benefits of having more citizens covered under the plans outweighs the anger they face within their own parties for letting the program succeed. Still, not every state is giving in so “easy.”
In Arkansas, Medicaid expansion continues to be a sore subject. Rather than participate in the same expansion program that other states are embarking on, the Arkansas legislature decided to introduce a hybrid proposal — one that wouldn’t officially expand Medicaid, per se, but would instead provide that funding to low income uninsured to allow them to purchase their own private option plans.
Even that compromise has gone nowhere, unfortunately. The original fix was short term. Now, the state house has rejected the proposal to reauthorize it multiple times, even though the Speaker has vowed to keep reintroducing it until eventually the bill is voted through.
The question on everyone’s lips is why the GOP in Arkansas is so determined to keep low income residents from having affordable, accessible health care. Over 87,000 people in the state will lose insurance if the expansion doesn’t go through, and the Republicans don’t seem to see that as a major concern, either from a health policy viewpoint or an economic one.
Why would the conservatives of the state want to put the health of their most vulnerable in jeopardy? The same reason as their federal counterparts would. To make Obamacare fail. In fact, Republican state Rep. Nate Bell has no issues telling everyone that causing bringing down Obamacare is the real goal. According to Think Progress, Bell offered an amendment to the Medicaid bill, which would strip any actual promotion of health care insurance options, to, in his words, “create a barrier” for people who might otherwise enroll in insurance programs.
“Bell’s amendment would prohibit Arkansas from advertising Obamacare plans through television, radio, print, or online ads,” writes Tara Culp-Ressler. “It also prevents the state from using federal funds to conduct direct mailing campaigns — which, as the Arkansas Times’ David Ramsey notes, has been critical in getting out the word about the state’s Medicaid expansion.”
Republicans have been quite blatant, especially in the states, about declaring their open hostility to Obamacare and their desire to throw any wretch they can find at the enrollment system to block their own residents from getting insured. After all, California Republicans went as far as to set up their own fake website to trick enrollees who were trying to get insured. In comparison, simply refusing to promote any enrollment options, insurance plans or provide any sort of information for those who would be the most likely to benefit from accessible health care seems practically benign.
In the end, what it comes down to is that Arkansas’s Rep. Bell is yet the latest example that the GOP is terrified of Obamacare, and they are scared because when eventually people do get enrolled, and do get health care, once they see that they are no longer in danger of being bankrupted by their own illnesses or they can finally get treatment for issues that have been plaguing them without visiting an emergency room, those newly insured will have much higher quality of life. When that happens, they are going to be furious with the Republican party for standing in the way of that change.
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