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Friday, February 21, 2014

Who's needy? The hypocrisy of Obamacare opponents

Posted By on Fri, Feb 21, 2014 at 6:28 AM

click to enlarge HECKUVA DEAL Chart shows the amount paid in direct state contributions and payouts from plan surpluses toward health insurance for state legislators covered by state insurance.
  • HECKUVA DEAL Chart shows the amount paid in direct state contributions and payouts from plan surpluses toward health insurance for state legislators covered by state insurance.

The National Journal highlights the hypocrisy of U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston of Georgia, who decries health subsidies for poor people under the Affordable Care Act, but enjoys a fat subsidy from taxpayers of Georgia courtesy of his service there as a state legislator. There are undoubtedly similar hypocrites in the current and retired crop of Arkansas legislators, but taxpayers are not allowed to know which ones receive subsidies.

The Kingston story reminded me of my own look into the number of Arkansas legislators who enjoy health coverage under the richly subsidized state employee insurance plan (it's not so rich for school teachers, as frequent news articles remind us.)

It is considered an invasion of privacy to know which legislators are receiving state subsidies (they can reach more than $10,000 a year for the best family policy) through state health insurance.

Last year, I learned early in the legislative session that at least 54 of the 135 members of the legislature were covered by state employee insurance. The count at that time didn't include new members, of which there were dozens and likely many new insurance enrollees. I also was unable to determine how many "retired" (term-limited) legislators might have availed themselves of continuing coverage. Retired state employees also enjoy subsidies for their coverage.

It's a substantial benefit, as the chart shows. Remember it the next time a state representative decries from the well of the House, as Rep. Josh Miller did yesterday, the "handouts" provided to working poor people by the private option Medicaid expansion that he opposed. In that audience were dozens who work less for far more in handouts.

It would be instructive to know which members of the opponents of the private option are lapping up taxpayers health insurance subsidies for their part-time work at the Capitol. Sorry. State secret.

The chart above is the most recent available on the state employee website on insurance plan costs. Note that if you take the higher deductibles and other limits of the "bronze" plan there is no cost to the legislator at all. You may recall that the legislature insisted on skin in the game for even the poorest of Arkansas's working poor.

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