Back during the debate over Medicaid expansion (which lawmakers attempted to rebrand as “the private option”), this blog, in conjunction with the Advance Arkansas Institute, cautioned conservative lawmakers. We told them that if they collaborated with liberals by implementing Obamacare, that would take the issue off the table in the 2014 election. That’s not to say that policy decisions should be purely political. They should ideally be based on the merits: what’s in the best interest of the public, what is constitutionally permissible, and so forth. But in the case of Medicaid expansion, the principles were wrong and the politics were wrong. Therefore, we urged lawmakers to think carefully before rushing into anything. They did not take our advice.
Since that time, our prediction that Medicaid expansion would blur the lines between the parties has come true. Liberal commentators have consistently referred to the private option as “Arkansas’s version of Obamacare.” Senator Mark Pryor has said that his vote for Obamacare is justified by Republicans expanding Medicaid and implementing Obamacare exchanges in Arkansas. And now former Congressman Mike Ross, candidate for governor, has joined in the game, making the trifecta complete.
This week in the Baxter Bulletin, Ross said:
I voted against Obamacare as a congressman. I voted to repeal Obamacare…I agree with Gov. Beebe and the Republican legislature that approved the Private Option, which is a Medicaid expansion for a quarter million people in Arkansas…I would have voted for it. I would have signed it into law and I will support protecting it and continuing to see its implementation as governor.”
Translation: Mike Ross is so against Obamacare that, if he is elected governor, he will fight to protect its implementation in Arkansas.
And, like Pryor, Ross is using the GOP’s “private option” plan as a shield to defend himself against questions about his role in helping Obamacare pass Congress. Not only was this completely predictable: this was completely predicted. Now, instead of Ross and Pryor standing alone on the carpet, having to face questions about their role in imposing one of the worst pieces of legislation in American history on the American people, they are able to deflect a large share of the blame onto legislative Republicans who helped implement Obamacare in Arkansas. In case I haven’t been clear: THIS IS BAD.
I don’t say any of this to gloat (even though I told you so). I just say it so that maybe, possibly, next time Republican lawmakers will think about the policy and political consequences before they act — but I know that’s asking a lot.
Also: note that Ross is (again) trying to have it both ways in this Bulletin article. He wants to be known as someone who’s opposed Obamacare and supported its repeal, but also supports implementing it and expanding Medicaid to enroll hundreds of thousands of more people in government healthcare — as part of Obamacare. Think of it like this: Mike Ross was for Obamacare and voted it out of committee before he voted against it and voted to repeal it and before he was for implementing it in Arkansas. Simple enough, eh? (Sounds like Chad Niell is running his campaign.)
(Oh, and someone please call Davy Carter, Charlie Collins, or John Burris and have them contact the Baxter Bulletin and Mike Ross to let them know that the “private option” has absolutely nothing to do with Obamacare!)