by Max Brantley
Roby Brock includes in his reporting on Mark Pryor's day a transcript of his remarks to a state chamber of commerce crowd defending the Affordable Care Act.
He really has no choice. It's the best thing he could do to shake the mushy-Mark label that even Democratic voters are prone to label him with.
He did vote for the law. He was going to be hung with it no matter what he said. So he's chosen a pretty good path of defense — it's not perfect, it needs refinement (he's got a little bill to help small churches, for example, and I won't hold my breath for a Republican to attack that). But ... elements of it are in place and ARE working. People with pre-existing conditions can get health insurance. Families can now add kids to their insurance policies. A crippling drug charge has been eliminated for seniors. In a few months, people who haven't had health insurance will have it, many free and many more with federal help. Many hospitals are thrilled about the new program. It will keep open doors that were in danger of closing. Insurance companies are making refunds of charges in excess of a still-profitable level of reimbursement. New accountability has produced some promising results around the country. Said Pryor:
Look at what the state legislature did on the Medicaid expansion. Arkansas was creative, we did the private option, the so-called private option. When you add that and the exchanges together, there’s going to be close to 500,000 Arkansans — that’s one-sixth of our population — close to 500,000 Arkansans who are going to have private insurance for the first time or the first time in a long time.
Think about what that’s going to do, the Rand study, when they studied this six months ago, they said this is going to create 6,000 new jobs in Arkansas. People talk about this being job killers — I just went through a list: 1,000 new jobs at Serco, 150 new jobs at Fidelity, 200 new jobs at Sikes call center, 100 new jobs at Mercy Hospital.
This bill isn’t killing jobs, this bill is creating jobs.
We’ve got a 1,000 new jobs in Rogers, Arkansas directly because of this bill.
What's bad about this?
Naturally, the Republican noise machine is sneering and hooting at the idea that anyone could possibly defend any portion of Obamacare. But what part of that list of benefits would they take away? What part of the Arkansas legislature's adoption of Obamacare — make no mistake, without Obamacare millions, there would be no "private option" — would they reject? Which of the majority of Republican legislators who supported the Obamacare Medicaid expansion would they boot out of office for endorsing it? Surely not Rep. Tom Cotton's paid political director, John Burris, who led the fight for Obamacare in Arkansas.
Republicans in the U.S. House have voted to end Obamacare 40 times. But when Pryor challenges them to write a substitute law, he says, all he hears are "crickets." Delay, disrupt, defeat. That's the Republican game plan. If the opposition can be held off, someday millions of Americans, with unprecedented new health benefits, just might look at each other and say: What was all that fuss about? Happened on Medicare.