Man, what is the deal with Gov. Mike Beebe’s state Department of Insurance? These guys! After lawmakers declined to pass legislation to set up a state health care exchange, the Department of Insurance, under the leadership of Beebe hand Jay Bradford, got right down to work…planning an insurance exchange with a $1 million federal grant. Hm, OK.
Then they came back to the legislators last month asking to request another $3.8 million from the feds to continue planning the state run health exchange. Which they’re absolutely not setting up. Six Republican lawmakers said they didn’t think pursuing the grant was a good idea, since the state isn’t setting up an exchange, after all. In response, Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe said he’d not proceed. Well, guess that settles that! We’re definitely not setting up a state insurance exchange!
Which is why it’s so strange that this morning I attended an event in west Little Rock, hosted by the state Insurance Department, all about setting up this new state-run insurance exchange. What the hell, guys?
You can read all about it in this report from the AP’s estimable reporter Andrew Demillo, but the most fun, at least in the part I attended before I came to my senses and left, was when they opened up the floor for a Q&A session with Bradford, Arkansas Surgeon General Joe Thompson and Joel Ario, who until recently headed up the federal Office of Health Insurance Exchanges.
At that point, a steady stream of GOP lawmakers stepped up and started challenging Bradford et al. on the decidedly one-sided, propagandistic nature of the taxpayer-funded summit. That’s when things got slightly edgy.
“I think the legislative body as a whole asked the governor to not move forward,” on the exchanges, said Sen. Jonathan Dismang, and the governor said he would not move forward, he continued. “What are we doing here today?”
Good question, Sen. Jonathan Dismang! Bradford responded with a nebulous word cloud, mumbling something about “home rule,” I think, and for a few brief minutes everyone was very uncomfortable. Which was fun! Other lawmakers stepped up with equally feisty queries: Sen. Cecile Bledsoe! Rep. Mark Biviano! Minority Leader John Burris! Even former Rep. Dan Greenberg, doing his Greenberg thing!
They threw the schedule a little off course and shook things up a bit, for what it’s worth, which may not be much, because clearly the Beebe administration is just going to move forward with this as if the legislature doesn’t exist, which would be fine if Beebe didn’t make a big show of “consulting legislators” when he’s just going to do whatever he wants.
So the state health insurance exchange is dead, long live the state health insurance exchange, black is white, up is down, what health insurance exchange, I didn’t say anything about a health insurance exchange, here’s your shiny new health insurance exchange! We are through the looking glass here, people.
In conclusion, I am now eagerly awaiting the launch of the new ObamArkCare™ Health Insurance Exchange, Mike Beebe and Jay Bradford, co-proprietors. They assure us it will be a triumph, as it will be run by state government. Why, I hear it promises to combine all the administrative integrity of the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery with the fiscal responsibility of the Department of Workforce Services. I cannot wait!