Find out more →

Get unlimited access. Become a digital member!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

The private option: minority of lawmakers try to force the end of a policy, working as intended, supported by overwhelming majority

Posted by on Sat, Feb 22, 2014 at 11:39 AM

My talking head was on “All in with Chris Hayes” last night talking about the private option fight in Arkansas. TV is hard, so two quick points I think are worth clarifying:

1. The talk about appropriations and supermajorities can get bogged down, and I think it’s helpful to remember this simple fact: The private option law remains on the books, voted for and supported by an overwhelming majority in the Arkansas General Assembly, and there are nowhere close to the votes to overturn it. When I talk about “radical precedent,” what I mean is that the state has traditionally operated under norms by which legislation and policy is determined by the will of the majority in the legislature. Here we have a small minority using a tool (yes, available in the constitution unless a court says otherwise) in a radical way: blocking an entire budget, including stuff even the obstructionists want, to try to force the majority of legislators to cave on an existing policy within that budget. The “offer” from the obstructionists: end the private option and we’ll agree not to stop the entire Medicaid program. That’s it. The threat to implement a terrible outcome that nobody on either side wants is the means by which a small minority is trying to bend the overwhelming majority.

2. Hayes asked "is the private option working?" Our discussion focused, as it should, on the core goal of the private option — providing health insurance to low-income Arkansans. On that front, as readers of this blog know, the private option has been an enormous success. While nationally, Obamacare enrollment via had a disastrous rollout, the implementation of the private option has gone swimmingly. The state-run websites work fine, folks responded overwhelmingly to direct mail informing them of eligibility, the process of getting folks signed up to private health insurance they're now able to utilize has gone as smoothly as anyone could have hoped. After just two months, the state has put a huge dent in the uninsured rate, with 100,000 people gaining coverage. But it's also worth noting that the policy details — once projections, now facts on the ground — have also brought good news. The per-person costs thus far are coming in nearly on the nose to what was projected by actuaries. The pool is leaning younger, and likely healthier. Both the size and the makeup of the private option population have been vital for the Arkansas Health Insurance Marketplace, likely leading to lower premiums and more choices for Arkansans shopping on the Marketplace, and helping to attract more carriers into the state down the road and keeping the ones we have. From the perspective of conservatives, the Burris amendments give teeth to the promise of Republican-friendly changes to the private option in 2015. The doomsday scenarios peddled by some private option opponents have not come true. The private option is working as intended. 

Now obviously, if you are someone who believes that providing health insurance to 100,000 (and counting) Arkansans is a terrible policy mistake, any talk of the private option "working" is beside the point — from the perspective of diehard opponents, it's probably working all too well! But even some of the lawmakers most fervently opposed to the private option have admitted to me privately that they're a bit baffled by those who voted for it last year and have flipped to no after the policy has been operating for just two months. There simply isn't much in the way of substantive policy reasons for people like Rep. Ann Clemmer or Rep. Allen Kerr or Rep. John Hutchison, to name just a few, to have changed their minds. They just got spooked by the politics. 

Tags: , , , , ,

Speaking of...

  • Conservative chutzpah on Obamacare, part 50

    April 14, 2014
    The New Republic's Brian Beutler flags the latest concern trolling from Obamacare critics. Taking the see-what-sticks approach to new heights, the latest complaint is that people won't be able to sign up until next year once open enrollment is over. It's the Latest Obamacare Surprise! Only, this isn't surprising. It's how the law works. But you might be surprised if you were getting dangerous misinformation from anti-Obamacare advocacy groups. /more/
  • The private option and Republican primaries

    April 14, 2014
    The private option issue looms large in the Republican primary between incumbent state Sen. Missy Irvin and challenger Phil Grace, as well as several other GOP primaries throughout the state. The outcomes of these elections could have a major impact on the future of the private option, both in terms of impacting the tight margins to keep the necessary supermajority and signalling which way the political wind is blowing to Republican lawmakers on the fence about their vote in 2015. /more/
  • Congressional Budget Office: Obamacare costs $100 billion less than projected, still reduces budget deficits on net

    April 14, 2014
    The new report from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) found that the coverage expansion under the Affordable Care Act has a lower price tag than what the CBO projected in February, to the tune of $104 billion over the ten-year period 2015–2024. For 2014, the cost is now projected to be $5 billion less than what was projected in February. /more/
  • Millions of mentally ill Americans without health insurance in states that refused Medicaid expansion

    April 11, 2014
    Nearly 4 million Americans with serious mental health conditions have been left without health insurance by the decision of 24 states turn down federal money to expand Medicaid. Yet another example of the human costs of refusing to expand Medicaid, and reason to be thankful that the Arkansas legislature found a way forward to do right by its neediest citizens. /more/
  • The Where We Are with Health Care Expansion Edition

    April 11, 2014
    The state of Arkansas appealing a federal judge’s ruling striking down the 12-week abortion ban the legislature passed in 2012, the latest in the race for U.S. Senate between Tom Cotton and Mark Pryor, the latest silliness in the judicial eligibility controversy and where we are with health care expansion in Arkansas and nationally — all covered on this week's edition of the Week in Review Podcast. /more/
  • Republicans don't like Obamacare whether it's working or not

    April 11, 2014
    One frustrating feature of the endless debates over the Affordable Care Act is that the positions of Obamacare opponents often turn out to be unfalsifiable articles of faith. I think it's helpful to think back to November and December, when wasn't working and the enrollment situation looked dire. If that had continued — if the worst predictions of Obamacare opponents had come true — the law would have faced a real existential crisis going forward. But that's not what happened. The number of people without insurance is going down. Enrollment met, or surpassed projections. And in the face of these events, the Obamacare opponents who predicted that the law was doomed to a train wreck — certain to collapse on its own, leaving its foes to bathe in the political sunshine of a nation's anger — well, they have adjusted their position...not at all. /more/
  • Sylvia Mathews Burwell and the coming confirmation fight

    April 11, 2014
    President Obama will nominate Sylvia Mathews Burwell, currently director of the Office of Management and Budget, to replace Kathleen Sebelius as Secretary of Health and Human Services. Sebelius announced that she is stepping down yesterday. Here's some good background on Burwell and some notes on the coming confirmation fight. What will Sen. Mark Pryor do? /more/
  • Number of uninsured is falling since enactment of Obamacare

    April 10, 2014
    Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius today announced that enrollment in the marketplaces created by Obamacare has hit 7.5 million, with 400,000 people so far taking advantage of the extension offered by the Obama administration to give folks more time to complete the process. Meanwhile, two pieces of data released this week suggest that when you add it all up, Obamacare is making progress toward one of the core goals of the law: reducing the number of Americans without health insurance. /more/
  • Enrollment in Arkansas Health Insurance Marketplace tops 40,000

    April 10, 2014
    Through April 6, 41,402 Arkansans have purchased plans on the Arkansas Health Insurance Marketplace, the new marketplace created by Obamacare, according to information released yesterday by the Arkansas Insurance Department (see county by county map above). As in the rest of the country, Arkansas saw a surge in enrollment recently, with more than 7,800 people signing up in the last two weeks. But while national enrollment in the marketplaces across the country hit initial projections, Arkansas will fall well short. /more/
  • In Nate Bell's hometown of Mena, people are getting covered by Obamacare

    April 10, 2014
    An article in the Mena Star explains that — despite the efforts of state Rep. Nate Bell, the Mena Republican who has made it his mission to stop outreach informing people of their options for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act — citizens in Mena are getting covered under Obamacare. /more/
  • More »

Comments (12)

Showing 1-12 of 12

Add a comment

Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-12 of 12

Add a comment

More by David Ramsey

  • Blood moon open line

    The line is open: blood moon in the sky and back here on Earth, shenanigans in Louisiana and Oklahoma.
    • Apr 15, 2014
  • The lobbying effort to stop Tax Day from being easier for taxpayers

    I wrote last week the fact that the IRS could easily auto-prepare personal income taxes for American taxpayers. Auto-preparation could would save Americans $2 billion in tax preparation fees per year and 225 million hours per year in time spent preparing our taxes. But tax preparers like TurboTax make big profits off of the current hassle and form an unholy lobbying alliance with anti-tax crusaders like Grover Norquist, who want who want taxes to be as annoying as possible so that people will be more likely to oppose taxes. A great piece in ProPublica does some digging on this scandalous lobby's efforts at an astroturf campaign against a simpler filing system, and reports that a lobbying group linked to Intuit, the maker of TurboTax, is involved in trying to encourage community leaders to write Op-eds and letters to Congress (all of them remarkably similar in content and language), claiming that "return-free filing" would hurt the poor.
    • Apr 15, 2014
  • More »

Event Calendar

« »


  1 2 3 4 5
6 7 8 9 10 11 12
13 14 15 16 17 18 19
20 21 22 23 24 25 26
27 28 29 30  



  • As part of Ball State University's BSU at the Games, Arkansas Times photo intern Matt Amaro covered the culture of Sochi during the Winter Olympics.

© 2014 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation