Medicaid: Speak Now, Or Forever Hold Your Peace

Arkansas questionsI’ve received some off-the-record criticism just for recounting Michael Cannon’s opinions on health care reform the other day (boy, wait till I give my opinion). I always appreciate criticism, both negative and positive. It sharpens me as a writer and a fighter in the battle for a free society. Oddly, however, I am now being criticized for opposing something that (as far as I can tell) doesn’t exist.

No Medicaid expansion plan, public or “private,” has been published — and even if it has been compiled, it’s been kept away from the public eye. Am I honestly expected to support a plan that I haven’t even seen? This is like Nancy Pelosi 2.0. Several friends have been effusive — while insisting that they stay off the record — in explaining that we at the The Arkansas Project and the Advance Arkansas Institute are wrong in our criticisms of this plan, yet they seem unwilling to (1) discuss these issues on the record and (2) explain why we are wrong and what is right. 

What we’ve heard for several weeks now from several Republicans in the legislature is how great and wonderful The Beebe-Sebelius Plan (the ”Private Option” model) is. Michael Cannon says it’s not. Perhaps they are right and he is wrong, but because no one will release details of the plan, it seems to me that some of my friends are starting to confuse raised voices with persuasive arguments. The only way we can tell who is right is to look at the evidence, and for some reason The B-S Plan’s architects don’t want us to do that. Now I’m even being told it’s not really Medicaid expansion because “it’s a free market approach.” Wrong. Not The B-S Plan that I’ve seen speculations about. If there’s another one out there, I’d be happy to discuss it — but oh, wait, it hasn’t been released? OK, well, at least one thing’s for sure: according to the supporters of The B-S Plan, I am still wrong.

The bottom line is that The B-S Plan we know of — that conservative legislators have been praising — appears to have, as its central feature, a gigantic subsidy to private insurance companies. Michael Cannon is right: this is cronyism. If conservative legislators don’t like that description, they are more than welcome to submit their own. As I said yesterday, we are more than happy to provide a forum for discussion here on the blog. In fact, we are anxious to do so because we want to know what’s in the plan. This entire game of “wait and see” is insulting to the people of Arkansas, and it’s more than a little odd that journalists are treating it as anything more than a set of rumors. If you’re an advocate of a gigantic change in state and federal law, at some point it’s your responsibility to go on the record with your ideas and have a debate in the public arena about your proposals. As we approach the final days of the legislative session, we need more than rhetorical posturing and requests to “just trust me.”

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