by Max Brantley
The big news, though, was what the governor had to say on a more pressing topic — his plans to implement the federal Affordable Care Act, both as to health insurance exchanges and the expansion of Medicaid provided by the legislation. State officials were on hand to discuss this topic, too.
It appears that exposure to France and its universal health care didn't hurt Beebe's essentially warm view toward helping the less fortunate.
Beebe was quoted on Medicaid via Twitter:
"We will make the decisions that will most positively affect Arkansans."
In a rational world, this would be expanding health care coverage to more Arkansans (some 200,000 or 250,000 uininsured or poorly insured, according to recent estimates). In the alternate universe of the Tea Party and the Arkansas Republican Party, you'd have even less government-supported health coverage than we have now. Then, the haves could keep more of their money and the have-nots could. well, work harder and smarter. Or just die. This thinking overlooks, of course, the hidden tax on health care that comes from institutions providing unreimbursed care. It forgets the cost of failing to catch health problems early. It forgets the stimulus of all the jobs necessary to provide expanded services.
Today, Beebe indicated he leaned toward the Medicaid expansion. Beebe's view is that federal dollars will be available to provide more health care and he sees no reason why some states should benefit and Arkansas should not. But .... he wants legislative input. And he's concerned that Arkansas have a means to reduce its commitment in future years if money is short for meeting the state match (about 10 percent) of expanded services when it starts in three years. This sort of common sense — tempered always with political caution — is one reason why Mike Beebe has been so popular.
At the very moment Beebe was meeting the press, the chairman of the Republican Party was on Radio KNUT(ARN) saying no solution was acceptable except eradication of Obamacare. Human cost is of little interest to the GOP. Already, the Republican echo chamber is reverberating with news that Mike Beebe favors covering the health needs of more people in Arkansas. Imagine! The nerve!
The health insurance exchanges are being developed and will go forward regardless. The expansion of Medicaid is set to occur, too. It doesn't require legislative action. But .... the legislature must appropriate money received from the feds for expanded services. It takes only 26 votes in the House to kill an appropriation. That, then, is the question for 2013: Will the Republican Party produce the votes to kill three years of wholly federally funded expansion of health coverage for Arkansas people?
The common good or greed?
Simple choice. Call the roll.
PS — Do we really want to be lumped in with Kansas, Wisconsin, Florida, Louisiana and Iowa in refusing better health coverage for our people? (And cut the legs out from under rural hospitals and similar while we're at it?)
CLIP AND SAVE: Ernest Dumas, writing for The Arkansas Leader newspaper, explains in an editorial in precise, detailed terms why the Affordable Care Act is so valuable to Arkansas. Not just in the future, but already, in terms of drug discounts, colonoscopies, coming insurance rebates, plus the well-known easing of insurance coverage rules.