Gov. Asa Hutchinson's
effort to triangulate health care
is better viewed as a slow strangulation, as illustrated today by health industry comments on his plan to curb the Arkansas Medicaid expansion.
The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette today reported
on the outpouring of criticism from health groups on the Hutchinson plan to have only the poorest qualify for Medicaid expansion and to add work requirements and costs that will drive still more out of coverage. The groups illustrate that the promise of federal tax credits in the subsidized marketplace will somehow be an equal substitute is a sham.
The critics won't deter Hutchinson, the Republican legislature or the Trump administration agency that will approve any suggestions to restrict benefits for poor people, even working poor. Hutchinson is trying to hang onto the boon
of federal money while also serving the Republican desire to punish the poor. So he'll keep Medicaid expansion money (a tremendous aid to his tax-cutting) while showing he can be heartless, too.
Bottom line: Tens of thousands fewer people will be covered. Hospitals will again experience huge and possibly calamitous unreimbursed expenses. Insurance premiums will rise. Sick people, unable to work, will die. This also seems likely to begin a downward spiral. If the state continues to insist on cost-cutting, still more ways to restrict the poor will be devised, with an increase in the same consequences.
Hutchinson will be re-elected governor in 2018 before the first canaries in this toxic coal mine of health care die. And the reductions will come gradually, first to the most disenfranchised, an invisible group without credit card-toting lobbyists to plead their case.
To coin a phrase: Sad!
What will be sadder still is if the secret health care bill being drafted in the U.S. Senate is jammed into law without debate and produces an even bigger reduction in the money Arkansas has on hand.