Treasurer candidates dodge and parry on private option question | Arkansas Blog

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Treasurer candidates dodge and parry on private option question

Posted By on Wed, Apr 23, 2014 at 7:19 AM

DODGER: Duncan Baird gets called down by opponent for evasive answer to question on private option.
  • DODGER: Duncan Baird gets called down by opponent for evasive answer to question on private option.
Speaking of extremist politics:

The Arkansas Family Council released its hot-button candidate survey results yesterday. It's a thinly disguised propaganda tool for the Religious Right. Republicans respond far more often than Democrats and almost without exception they file cookie cutter answers to the God, gun and gays questions that form the core of GOP politics today.

But I noted an interesting anomaly yesterday in answers to a question on the private option expansion of Medicaid. It came in the race for treasurer and has now been made an issue.

The question:

Medicaid Expansion: The Arkansas Private Option law passed in 2013 to increase the number of people receiving health insurance through Medicaid by using tax dollars to buy health insurance from private insurance companies under the Affordable Care Act.

The answer, from state Rep. Duncan Baird:

The General Assembly was asked if we would support Medicaid Expansion and we rejected it. I oppose the Affordable Care Act and signed a brief that was sent to the U.S. Supreme Court in opposition to it. I supported the conservative reforms of the private option as a way to mitigate the negative effects of the Affordable Care Act, and to reform our state Medicaid program through the use of private insurance, health savings accounts, and co-pays and deductibles.

Well. That answer is highly misleading. Duncan Baird was, to his credit, an important part of the Republican-led bipartisan coalition that approved the private option version of Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare. There's no other way to slice it. Medicaid was expanded and Duncan Baird voted for it. It will be enabled by billions in Affordable Care Act money. Period. Republican supporters have many and good explanations for how their way is better, but you can't get around the facts.

Baird's opponent, Dennis Milligan, pounced. He said he opposed the Medicaid expansion and expanded on his  opposition in a windy answer you can read at the link. And now he's blasting Baird (including for opposing Common Core curriculum when Baird supported a 2011 law that implemented Common Core). On the private option question:

The biggest "exaggeration" of all was what he wrote - almost in Washington double speak - about Obamacare and the Private Option version of it.

He tells you he "rejected" it but here's the undeniable truth, Baird not only collaborated fully with Democrats as chairman of the Joint Budget Committee to pass it out of his committee, but then acted as floor leaded for the PO appropriation bills ... and on top of all of that, he voted for the PO once in his committee and 11 different times on the House floor.

If you “rejected” or opposed Obamacare / the Private Option, how could you do all that he did and vote for it that many times?

He says he supported "conservative reform" to the Private Option. A bad idea, no matter what minor "changes" you make to it, is still a bad idea. I think the only real conservative reform to the PO is to repeal it.

My opponent wants you to believe that the Private Option has absolutely nothing to do with Obamacare ... but that's just not the case.

Baird is clearly the superior candidate in this primary race, but he doesn't help his squeaky clean image by a disingenuous answer to this question. He should have conferred with Rep. John Burris, now running for state Senate (and who manages to support the private option while working in the employ of a U.S. Senate candidate, Tom Cotton, who vows to kill the federal legislation that finances it). Here's Burris' response to the same question:

The bold-lettered title to question 5 is misleading. Arkansas has received national recognition for forging an alternative to the Medicaid expansion mandated under Obamacare. The Arkansas "Private Option" reduces the number of people on Medicaid, privatizes a substantial portion of the current Medicaid program and provides additional conservative reforms like incentivizing HSA plans, cost-sharing, income verification, and certain drug testing. The program neither expands Medicaid or provides "health insurance through Medicaid".

Burris is dodging, too. Medicaid HAS been expanded, regardless of the fact that private insurance companies now provide some of the coverage with federal dollars. But at least he makes it clear that he's not responding to the question as posed before continuing his own rear-covering obfuscatory tactics. He faces a devoted Obamacare foe in his Senate primary.

The state treasurer, of course, will have nothing to do with the health care law, except to deposit the new millions that flow to Arkansas courtesy of President Obama for health coverage for poor Arkansans. Of these candidates, Dennis Milligan stands squarely in opposition to THAT. And if and when Duncan Baird is elected, some of the votes will come from people grateful for that infusion of Obamacare money he and Burris enabled.

Re Obamacare: If you have time you might be interested in a campaign memo from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committtee that asserts Republicans now believe the all-Obamacare campaign to take over the Senate is faltering and they are looking for new attack themes. It notes that Mark Pryor hangs on to a slim lead against Tom Cotton, who has not forsaken Obamacare but turned recently to some other lines of attack on the incumbent. 

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