AACF: Working to Confuse Voters About the Private Option

The following is a guest editorial by Jonathan Ingram of the Foundation for Government Accountability:

PrivateOption-ArkTimes

You may have seen the latest video from Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families. It’s an interview with Jennifer Trader — a working woman living in Springdale, a mother of two children, and an advocate of the private option. Nearly half of the video is composed of quick cuts — images of Jennifer working, or Jennifer playing with her kids. Jennifer talks over those images, explaining how hard she works, and how inadequate her health care coverage is. She tells us that “there’s a lot of us out there who work really hard and cannot afford it no matter how much we try.” Just after that, she says that “the private option is helping my family.”

It’s too bad, though, that AACF’s work is so misleading. The vast majority of private-option clients are nothing like the idealized portrait that AACF has produced.

Let’s remember who actually qualifies for the private option. The private option’s Medicaid expansion does not cover the elderly, or individuals with disabilities, or even poor children — groups most frequently considered among the most vulnerable.

The only people who are eligible for the private option are working-age, able-bodied adults. In fact, the vast majority of them have no dependent children. According to the liberal-leaning Urban Institute, roughly 71.3 percent of potential private option enrollees are childless adults. If you look only at the population who wouldn’t otherwise qualify for Obamacare subsidies, childless adults represent 74.3 percent of potential private option enrollees.

All of us want to help the truly needy. But it is far from clear that non-disabled adults without children fall into that category. They are a demographic group that has never been considered among the most vulnerable: notably, they have generally been ineligible for other types of taxpayer-funded welfare. For example, childless adults are not eligible for cash assistance under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, nor are they eligible for long-term food stamp benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

2012 poll conducted by Reuters found that most Americans want to preserve safety-net programs for the truly needy – but the idea that the typical private-option client is truly needy is far outside of the mainstream. Note that 77 percent of those Reuters polled opposed non-cash assistance, such as food stamps and Medicaid benefits, for working-age adults without children.

Furthermore, although the private-option population is working-age, it would be incorrect to describe this population as working. Census data shows that less than a quarter of the private-option population will be full-time, year-round workers; nearly half won’t be working at all.

Sure, some parents may ultimately enroll in the private option (while their children are stuck in a Medicaid program on the brink of collapse), but those able-bodied parents make up only a small portion of those who the private option was meant to cover. I guess able-bodied, childless adults don’t generate the pity that AACF’s looking for. If the private option were truly about parents, Arkansas would have followed the lead of states like Florida, which has looked at options for safety-net coverage for low-income parents and disabled adults below the poverty line.

I understand why AACF produced this video: the private option is in critical condition. Earlier this week, John Cooper, the winner of the special state-senate election in Arkansas, said that his opponent made the election about the private option – “and obviously,” Cooper said, “it’s been rejected.” Thursday, Arkansas’s Senate President told reporters that he was “terrified” about its future. The private option is an extraordinarily inefficient program that provides very little benefit – and most of that benefit goes to people who are far from truly needy. Explaining why so many Arkansas legislators supported it in 2013 is an exercise best left to the reader. I fear those legislators were making decisions based on the kind of flawed portraiture that AACF provides.

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8 thoughts on “AACF: Working to Confuse Voters About the Private Option

  • January 18, 2014 at 5:04 pm
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    See, this is what happens when you recruit a yankee to write about an Arkansas topic. Let us count the inaccuracies and misrepresentations:
    1. The yankee quotes an “Urban Institute” study about the makeup of the private option enrollees. Problem is, there is no such study — the Urban Institute hasn’t published diddly-squat about the private option. And of course, the fact that he’s lying about this is why he couldn’t provide us a link to this non-existent study.
    2. There may be an Urban Institute study about the Medicaid expansion population nationally, but we can’t know for sure since he didn’t provide a link. But here’s the thing — we have actual, Arkansas-specific data for those who have signed up for the private option. Why would this yankee cite a fake national study instead of looking at the real Arkansas date? Because the data totally torpedoes his thesis.
    3. See, as the yankee says above, “childless adults are not eligible for … long-term food stamp benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)” But we already know for a fact that the vast majority (80%+) of the people who have enrolled in the private option are SNAP recipients — in other words, PARENTS. So we now see the yankee is lying when he tries to make us thing that the private option is primarily covering childless adults.
    4. The yankee admits that “some parents may ultimately enroll in the private option (while their children are stuck in a Medicaid program on the brink of collapse).” This, of course, ignores the fact that the Health Care Independent Act provides that next year, Arkansas will seek a waiver to move the children out of Medicaid and into the private option. Yankee will claim that’s a bad thing, because he’s too oblivious to realize he’ll be saying that Medicaid (which is what the kids are in now) is better than private health insurance (which is what the private option is).
    5. The yankee also tries to use John Cooper’s victory as proof that Arkansans oppose the private option. But here’s the inconvenient truth that he ignores: polling by Cooper’s own consultants shows that only 32% of the voters in that district oppose the private option. That’s it — only a third.

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    • January 18, 2014 at 7:05 pm
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      Bobby, did you read the full poll or only that one question? 67% have an unfavorable opinion of Obamacare; the “private” option is a leg of the Obamacare stool. When John Cooper explained this to voters, they agreed with him and they elected him — in a landslide.
      And, by the way, while only 32% opposed the PO, only 30% supported it — which, by the way, is less than 32% — and 38% said they don’t know. If you think that’s a good sign for the PO, you must be privileged to some information I don’t have.

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  • January 18, 2014 at 6:48 pm
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    Wonder how many are illegals?

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  • January 18, 2014 at 8:10 pm
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    Bobby P. —
    You’re wrong on all five points.
    That Urban Institute study you claimed didn’t exist? Here it is: http://www.urban.org/UploadedPDF/412630-opting-in-medicaid.pdf
    Note that childless adults are not eligible for LONG-TERM food stamps. You quoted Jon accurately; it’s just that you didn’t understand what he wrote. Or maybe I could just adopt your gutter tactics and say that you’re lying. The point you’re skating over here is that SNAP benefits are short-term.
    Note also that you’re attempting to change the subject from how the private option actually works to how you’d like it to work. What do I care that Arkansas is going to apply for yet another waiver next year? A relevant question, on the other hand, is whether that waiver will be accepted. Email me if you think that the Obama Administration will accept the waiver; I will bet you any amount of money it won’t. Imagine how much money you could make off of an ill-informed person like me! Or, alternatively, we could look at facts, rather than at your cockeyed predictions: take a look at the “Good Friday” memo, which makes it clear that the federal government will only approve the private option for a new adult group.
    Nic addressed your fifth point, but I’ll summarize it: apparently you don’t know how to read a poll.
    P.S. One of my best friends is a Yankee. What’s with the sectional bigotry?

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  • January 18, 2014 at 9:41 pm
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    Hey Bobby P, let’s look at your allegations of inaccuracies.
    1) Since Arkansas’ “Private option” eligibility criteria are identical to the Federal medicaid expansion eligibility criteria, a study of the numbers newly eligible for Medicaid expansion IS a study of the numbers eligible for the “private option.” Your first alleged inaccuracy is gone.
    2) I see the link in the story just fine. Looks like it goes to http://www.urban.org/UploadedPDF/412630-opting-in-medicaid.pdf and if you go to page 9 of that PDF, you see that it has a table entitled “Uninsured Adults Newly Eligible for Medicaid Under the ACA with Incomes Below 138% of FPL by Sex, Parental Status and State (Numbers in 1000’s)” and that table shows that there will be 218,000 newly eligible adults in Arkansas under Obamacare expansion and that 155,000 (or 71%) will be childless adults. He based his statement on Arkansas specific data and not just on national data. Another alleged inaccuracy wiped out.
    3) Amazingly, a story in the Democrat Gazette on January 8th (found at http://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2014/jan/08/state-medicaid-enrollment-closing-73000-20140108/ ) said “About 63,000 of those who applied did so in response to a letter sent in September to recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps, who the department had determined were eligible for coverage under the expanded Medicaid program.” Funny thing is that the study from the Urban Institute cited by the original author above said that there would be 63,000 adults with children eligible for medicaid expansion in Arkansas. Looks like their numbers are dead on about the number of people in various categories who are ELIGIBLE. Not all eligible people have signed up, which makes it look lower, but your alleged inaccuracy is once again shot to pieces.
    4) Saying the private option is better or worse than the private option is like saying that immolation in a volcano is better or worse than immolation in a meteor impact. It doesn’t matter either way, as both are programs that have terrible services which are getting worse every day. Would you rather be one of the guys who died shortly after the Titanic struck the iceberg or would you have rather lingered until the bitter end? I don’t even see an alleged inaccuracy that you pointed out here to disprove, just some illogical rambling on your part.
    5) Nic pointed out part of your illogic earlier, but the other point is that you say that ONLY 32% opposed the private option (without explaining what the context was of the Private Option in the question) and ignore the fact that ONLY 30% favored it. So, the unfavorable outweighed the favorable and the “don’t know exactly what you are talking about here” outweighed both of those, but as Nic pointed out, Obamacare enjoyed a 67%-24% unfavorable rating, so most of the 38% “don’t know” on the private option clearly don’t like Obamacare. Another allegation bites the dust for you.

    Reply
  • January 19, 2014 at 9:30 am
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    some people (bob) help prove that you do not have to be right, just loud, long winded, and just show up.

    Reply

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