Gov. Asa Hutchinson talked yesterday about the punitive additions
ASA WORLD: It ain't easy being poor there.
he'd make to the Obamacare Medicaid expansion in Arkansas
to make it politically palatable to Republicans in the legislature. Most of it had been covered before.
Notable: He'd like to have a "lockout" from coverage for six months on those who fail to pay premiums due for the Medicaid expansion coverage given to working poor people. No catchup time for missing a payment. No forbearance for people who've been fired or faced a calamity in an already tough existence. No help for hospitals suddenly saddled with uncovered indigent care for those locked out. Said the governor:
If someone is able-bodied, they’re not doing what they should do, they’re not participating and taking personal responsibility, then after a set length of time they ought to be locked out of their coverage, he said.
There are so many areas in which this thinking could be applied. Late renewal of car tags and driver's licenses, for example. No driving for six months if you are effin' irresponsible.
And what about state legislators who don't remit payroll withholding taxes or pay their bar dues on time or remit sales tax collections? I can think of at least three Republican legislators who've found themselves on these lists at times, one currently. Maybe they should be locked out of state paychecks for six months. Let's start with Sen. Jake Files, chair of Revenue and Taxation, $111,000 in arrears to the feds. His business has had a down spell. Tough. Take his state health insurance away.
What you think governor?
Asa won't think much of this idea. In Asa World, it is only the undeserving poor who must feel the lash. Not deserving deadbeat Republicans in the legislature.
John Lyon's coverage for the Arkansas News Bureau also talks of Hutchinson's idea to impose an asset test on health coverage recipients. He's heard tell that some people getting the new insurance coverage own houses and have some money in bank accounts. Make them pay, dammit. This will be a wildly popular idea. It will go with little notice that this will apply to only a tiny handful of people and that sometimes people inherit or otherwise manage to have houses with some equity but they don't amount to liquid assets. Remember that multi-millionaires in Arkansas sometimes hide vast amounts of assets in homesteads when they take bankruptcy to avoid repayment of debts in failed real estate ventures. Does the state assess a fee on them for public services? No. But they are the deserving job creators (hey, bankruptcy lawyers gotta eat, too), not the undeserving wretches making barely above minimum wage flipping burgers and hoisting refuse cans.
(Please note: There are some levels of state health insurance provided legislators that come at no cost at all. How about we end that free ride for those with a house? Fair is fair right?)
None of this is surprising from a governor who gave all his last income tax cut package to people at the higher end of the income scale. The bottom 40 percent of workers in Arkansas got exactly ZERO.
There is no free lunch for working poor in Asa World — only for the rich. And maybe the Chinese, to whom the governor wants to extend some credit and tax giveaways to get them to build a mill to take advantage of our overabundance of cheap pulpwood. (PS: Asa is branding this Arkansas Works. Get it? Except it's dishonest. You could be working hard — just not getting by on low pay — and get screwed by his new rules. Oh, and you DON'T have to work to qualify for corporate welfare if you live off dividends from a silver shovel family company you were born with. You DESERVE it.)
If you don't get the wisdom of all this, you don't get elections. They have consequences.
I know. You could credit Hutchinson for at least trying to keep Obamacare benefits in place. Some Republican governors have resisted. But as a practical matter, he has no choice. Without those billions, Arkansas's budget would crumble. And then how could he cut taxes for the wealthy some more?