In 2013 Arkansas lawmakers made a solemn promise to the state’s people. They crafted a landmark compromise to cooperate with the Affordable Care Act, and bring life-saving healthcare options to hundreds of thousands of Arkansans. What resulted was Arkansas’ Private Option… a deal that that uses ACA money originally meant to expand Medicaid, but instead covers citizens through the health insurance marketplace.
Before the plan was enacted, I had my reservations about this plan over just using Medicaid… especially if it could be applied to other states like Texas. But after a few months in, one thing is clear. The Private Option is a rousing success. Over 100,000 people have enrolled in healthcare plans, reducing the state’s uninsured population by one fifth in just four short months. Enrollment has been surprisingly swift, with hundreds, if not thousands of new enrollees coming from every one of the state’s 75 counties. It doesn’t matter if the county is politically red or blue, everyone needs healthcare.
It’s not just the new enrollees that benefit. For Arkansans that were already receiving Medicare and Medicaid, the ACA and Private Option increased their quality of care by lowering costs of prescription medications for patients, and providing new benefits such as wellness visits, dental and optical care, and even partnership with fitness centers to promote wellness. With fewer uninsured patients to see, the expansion saves money for the state government and lessens the burden on hospitals. The more than $90 million dollars in savings will be used to give Arkansas families a tax cut. I am convinced that this is a model that would work well for larger states like Texas and Florida.
Sadly, all of these monumental achievements are in jeopardy. Though passed in the Senate, a faction of 27 Republican legislators in the Arkansas State House have voted repeatedly to not only kick those one hundred thousand people off of their health insurance, but also raise taxes for Arkansas families and businesses. The only word that can describe one’s reasoning for such a vote is lunacy. Here’s more from David Ramsey of the Arkansas Times…
For some, politics come into play, but those in the hardcore opposition – the Ballingers and the Hendrens – have sincerely held reasons for that belief. I certainly do not think that they wish to kick 100,000 people off of coverage out of spite, or lack of care. They simply believe that the private option is bad public policy.
But the outcome of their preferred policy — ending the private option — is precisely to kick 100,000 people off of the coverage they’ve gained this year through the private option, and to ensure that around 100,000 more eligible people never gain that coverage at all. It’s time for opponents to own that.
If there was ever a time for public pressure at the Arkansas state capitol, that time is now. These greedy politicians need to know that the Private Option is literally a matter of life and death. People across the state are able to go to the doctor for the first time in years. They now have peace of mind that if they face some serious illness, their family won’t have to endure financial ruin just to care for them. Many people have the potential to live longer and healthier lives because of the grand bargain crafted Little Rock. For everyone in Arkansas, I sincerely hope this isn’t thrown away.
(photo credit: Arkansas Times)