Johnny Key’s Amendment: An Eloquent Admission Of The “Private” Option’s Future Costs

3965810595_b6f3093535_zYou probably heard that on Tuesday the House, on its fifth attempt, approved funding for the Obamacare “private” option for the next fiscal year. Some “private”-option advocates think of Arkansas’s Medicaid expansion as a “brilliant approach,” but I imagine our readers know I’m disappointed that it passed. The Arkansas Project and the Advance Arkansas Institute have repeatedly warned over the last year that this program will create unpredictable costs and make the state increasingly dependent upon a federal government that constantly moves the target. To date, no lawmaker has outlined how the state will pay for the program once federal funding begins to fade away in 2017. Nonetheless, at least one “private” option advocate showed he was aware of these concerns — the day after the bill was sent to the governor’s desk.

Yesterday, Senator Johnny Key amended HB 1129 in committee in order to transfer monies from the Medicaid trust fund over to the “private” option trust fund — monies that had originally come from a court settlement. Here’s a quote from Senator Key in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette:

If this award is at the level that it could be, this certainly will take care of a lot of the future costs of the private option, should it be upheld and should it carry forward…A number of members have expressed their concern on future cost and this would take care of those costs for a number of years.

It isn’t clear whether Key’s actions were motivated by the immediate cost overruns that we’re already starting to see (which the state will likely be on the hook for pretty soon) or by the other costs we will necessarily have to shoulder in three years (once the federal government no longer picks up the entire tab of the “private” option). I think it’s fair to say that lots of lawmakers were aware of these problems — even as Governor Beebe was out praising the “economic boon” that the PO will supposedly create. All of this raises an important question: if the PO will create economic growth for the state, why do we need to allocate surplus funds to help pay for it?

(Flashback: the “economic boon” we were promised under Medicaid expansion isn’t coming, according to the state’s own estimates.)

The House and Senate will vote on HB 1129, as amended, shortly. Taxpayers should take note that Arkansas has compensated for Medicaid shortfalls for a long time and there’s no reason to believe that these shortfalls will end in the future. Why then is the state moving to allocate scarce funding to shore up the “private” option — the program that we have been told repeatedly is going to “save us money?”  Is the state — as Jonathan Ingram of FGA has writtennow prioritizing able-bodied adults over the sick and disabled by redirecting limited resources away from traditional Medicaid and towards their new entitlement program?

Unfortunately, these new developments are just the latest in the string of broken promises brought to you by “private”-option advocates. Taxpayers should brace themselves — this trend will only continue.

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3 thoughts on “Johnny Key’s Amendment: An Eloquent Admission Of The “Private” Option’s Future Costs

  • March 6, 2014 at 4:00 pm

    It is absolutely disappointing when I think back to the campaigns and hearing (even cheering) the politicians that promised to work on killing Obeymecare and shrink the government. I really got involved in 2008 and have experienced a long string of very disappointing defeats by the two faced group we worked so hard to get elected. Oh, we “won” 95% of the elections I was involved in….Yet we lost as politics as usual keeps going on, no real changes as promised. Painting Arkansas Red sounded so good and I guess the mentality was if we worked hard enough to elect the people we wanted Arkansas would change. I feel a little embarrassed for getting behind “the party line” and talking so many people into believing only to have been fooled which means I have been a conspirator in the lies.
    So what do you do now? We have busted our butts and elected the folks we wanted in office only to have them act like who was there before and forget the constituents choosing instead to make deals amongst themselves like they know what is best for everybody. I know what we will hear this cycle…..we have to keep the incumbents in there and they didn’t vote “for” Obeymecare but for the incredibly smarter PO so Arkansas could take our own path and have control. Bulls**t

  • March 6, 2014 at 6:00 pm

    The other day, other states are reporting cost overruns already passing the $30,000,000 mark… GO FIGURE!

  • March 6, 2014 at 8:10 pm

    Not to worry Gene,
    Many have exposed themselves, we are watching, taking names, then you know what.


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