by Max Brantley
Charlie Frago reports in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette today (pay wall) on growing buzz that Republicans intend to refuse Medicaid expansion during this regular session under the excuse that complicated information makes more time and a decision in the 2014 fiscal session a better idea.
They are the ghosts of George Wallace. Massive resistance then. Massive resistance now. He fought integration. Republicans fight universal health care for Arkansas citizens, particularly the poor who, incidentally, are disproportionately inclusive of minorities.
At their core, the Republican message is simple: No Medicaid expansion today; no Medication expansion tomorrow; no Medicaid expansion forever.
They mask this core belief by tossing out red herrings on the margins of the big issue — about a niche among the poorest Arkansas workers on Medicaid or private exchange coverage; about the precise effects of new reimbursement procedures; about wasteful spending.
The core issue couldn't be simpler. The U.S. Congress has approved a dramatic expansion of health care coverage for Americans and provided the money to pay for it. Republicans in Arkansas believe this state, one of the country's poorest, should impose fiscal discipline on the federal budget by refusing the money. They don't refuse defense contractor spending, road spending, education spending and other federal spending they deem worthwhile, naturally. They want to make an example of poor sick people.
If they were honest and if they were brave they'd call a vote TODAY on Medicaid expansion. Then they'd just say no and be done with it. We'd watch the dollars flow, including Arkansas's share, to other states. Those states include — so far — at least six headed by Republican governors. But Arkansas Republicans are desperately throwing diversionary mud on the wall in hopes that something will stick by way of cover for their refusal to help fellow Arkansans.
Call the roll. Deny poor workers health coverage. Cripple Arkansas hospitals. It's a bitter medicine but good for us in the long run, right Reps. Burris and Carter?