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Sunday, February 23, 2014

The elephant in the Capitol: You ain't seen nothing yet on Medicaid expansion

Posted By on Sun, Feb 23, 2014 at 7:22 AM

click to enlarge THINK THINGS LOOK BAD NOW? It will be worse in 2015.
  • THINK THINGS LOOK BAD NOW? It will be worse in 2015.

wrote ironically Friday, tongue somewhat in cheek  that the legislature's Democrats  might as well surrender on the private option Medicaid expansion now, along with just about everything else and submit to the barbarians.

Lurking in the back of my mind was precisely the theme of an article by Stephens Media. 

You think it's hard getting 75 votes for the private option this year? Wait until 2015.

In the regular legislative session, a full panoply of legislative issues will be at play — no limit on horse trading or subject matter, Davy Carter and Michael Lamoureux will no longer be chamber leaders. We perhaps will have a Republican governor (none of the GOP candidates supports the private option). There's a distinct possibility of a growing Republican House majority, on the strength of Arkansas detestation for President Obama and his health care law.

Optimists want to believe the growing number of formerly uninsured people, some with grievous conditions, would create some goodwill for the federally funded program and its health and economic benefits. No sign has emerged yet. Republicans plan to run again, at every level, on the evils of Obamacare. (My favorite is Tom Cotton, whose hired political aide John Burris is pushing for Obamacare's adoption in Arkansas. Neither will be harmed by the contradiction, apparently.)

In a regular session, there will be dozens of Jane Englishes and Nate Bells with special legislative pleadings for their votes. Perhaps you can forget Bell on this issue. He's already made it clear he'll be working nonstop to kill the program outright. It would be a principled rather than pragmatic move. Bell made clear this fiscal session what the value of a vote can be. For his vote and his vote alone, the supporters of the private option stripped the state of the ability to promote the program and encourage people to sign up. It was a crippling amendment. A minority of one vote was all that was necessary for passage.

The fight next week for the final vote or two in the House, should it succeed, is but a prequel. The depressing thought of 2015 leads to darker thoughts about short-circuiting the drama now.

I still favor forcing a court case to resolve once and for all if Arkansas truly is  ruled by a 25 percent  minority of the legislature. This will become a major issue as Arkansas's makeover into Washington-style partisan politicking is completed. Those using the tool today may someday find it unpleasant, much as opinions on the filibuster rule in the U.S. Senate change with majority control. It's nuts.

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