Monday, June 9, 2014

Twice as nice: Arkansas-side of Texarkana benefits from Obamacare

Posted By on Mon, Jun 9, 2014 at 6:24 AM

click to enlarge RED MEANS HEALTH CARE: Obamacare comes to Arkansas, but not Texas.
  • RED MEANS HEALTH CARE: Obamacare comes to Arkansas, but not Texas.
The New York Times has a feature this morning, complete with slide show, on the benefits of living on the Arkansas side of Texarkana thanks to Arkansas's adoption of Obamacare Medicaid expansion through the so-called "private option."

That makes Texarkana perhaps the starkest example of how President Obama’s health care law is altering the economic geography of the country. The poor living in the Arkansas half of town won access to a government benefit worth thousands of dollars annually, yet nothing changed for those on the Texas side of the state line.


There's a but ….

But none of the low-income Texarkana residents interviewed realized that moving to the other side of town might mean a Medicaid card. In fact, health researchers and those who work with the poor expect very few Americans to move between states to take advantage of the law.

But wait … isn't it an article of faith that economic incentives — such as lower taxes — drive people's decision on where to live? Isn't that why the Arkansas legislature in its wisdom exempted Arkansas-side Texarkana from the state income tax, to match Texas? For whatever reason, Texas leads in population, about 36,000 to 30,000.

The article details difficulties in moving for the poor. And the winners and losers.

The expansion is already having an effect on the city’s biggest provider of charity care, the nonprofit Christus St. Michael Health System. “We’re seeing more patients with a payer,” said Chris Karam, its president, referring to those with health insurance coverage.

On the Texas side, though, it’s business as usual. “It makes me mad,” said Mr. Miller, who is not receiving any federal benefits at the moment despite his array of illnesses. “They need to quit playing games with people’s lives. Rich people. Government people.”

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