by Max Brantley
This is all theater.
I don't care if former top DHS official Ray Hanley is working to mobilize groups to endorse expanding health coverage of Arkansans. I don't care that the Catholic bishop of Arkansas has written that it's the right thing to do, along with faith leaders of virtually every variety. I don't care that solid academic work from groups like Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families makes clear the benefits to the state economically and in health terms are enormous. I don't care if Arkansas tax money will otherwise benefit New York.
Republican lawmakers dredge up three-year-old audits on relatively minor errors in Medicaid; they quibble over where poverty level qualification for Medicaid should be set; they want to hire an ideological consultant to view Medicaid with alarm; they quibble with the precise budgetary benefit of Medicaid expansion (though they cannot quibble with the overall real-dollar benefit). Pay not attention. It's all a smokescreen. Their game is massive resistance. Delay to defeat.
A solid majority of Republicans DO NOT WANT TO PROVIDE GOVERNMENT HEALTH COVERAGE FOR POOR PEOPLE. If they can kill Medicaid expansion and all the other moving parts of the Affordable Care Act, they can 1) spend more money on defense 2) get a tax cut.
Write it down. Gov. Mike Beebe WILL NOT get 75 votes in the House to approve Medicaid expansion. The Republican-led states that have adopted Medicaid expansion for all the obvious reasons don't labor under such an onerous constitutional requirement for passage of appropriation bills. Even assuming a solid 49 votes from the Democrat/Green caucus, Beebe must turn 26, mostly 'bagger, Republicans to win. Not going to happen
It's sad for Arkansas, but that's the reality. You can kiss $900 million a year in federal health support goodbye. You can kiss goodbye to thousands of direct and related jobs in health care. You can kiss goodbye to better health for working poor and cheaper treatment of medical problems before they worsen.
If people want health care, they can get a job, work hard and pay for it themselves. (Except legislators, for whom taxpayers provide as much as $10,000 a year for family coverage.) The tax cuts Republicans expect from ending government health care will eventually trickle upon us all in the form of great prosperity. Pay no attention to the failure of this premise over the last 10 years. Free beer tomorrow.
Acres of newsprint are going to be devoted to this in the weeks ahead. It's irrelevant.
Score it now.
Greed 1; Welfare of Arkansas 0.
Clip and save. I'll joyfully eat it should I be proven wrong.
(Meanwhile, there is a bit of a rumble about some potential tricky legislative maneuvers around the 75-vote requirement. What I've heard so far is unconvincing as to constitutionality, but Godspeed to the legislative gnomes working on this alternative.)