On Obamacare Health Exchange, Beebe Is Back in the Straddle Again*

The Many Faces of Mike Beebe

Look, guys, let’s face it: You don’t want to keep reading about the Arkansas health insurance exchange, and I don’t want to keep writing about it. The thing is, we’ve posted a lot about that issue lately, and it’s kind of murky and confusing. Also, it’s growing increasingly difficult to find amusing or entertaining photos and images to illustrate the concept of a “health insurance exchange.”

That said, ugh, let’s talk a little more about the Arkansas health insurance exchange, dammit.

I’m reading this weekend piece from Arkansas News Bureau columnist John Brummett, who asks Gov. Mike Beebe just what he thinks about all this Obamacare business, anyway:

He has said all along, and continues to say, that he would have voted against the [Affordable Care Act] had he been in Congress. It is for the very reason that he’s a governor that he especially understands the new law’s vulnerability. It will put heavy strain on already stressed state Medicaid budgets. Some of his business friends tell him it could have the effect of prompting employers to discontinue their group health insurance plans and simply push their workers over into these new publicly established exchanges of private options (emphasis added).

But, as always, it’s the law and we must abide by the law. In that regard, it would be wise for the state to accept planning money for a state exchange because a state exchange would be better for us than a federal one.

The remarkable thing is that Beebe, even if finessing artfully, has sized up health care precisely. You don’t have to like everything about this law to accept that, unless overturned, it is the law and must be applied as efficiently as possible.

Note that, in the first graf, quoted above, Beebe via Brummett recounts some extraordinarily serious problems that will stem from the implementation of Obamacare. Bankrupting the already expensive and overburdened Medicaid system? Employers dumping health care coverage and dropping their employees onto the exchange? Those are huge issues just to sweep under the rug.

Having passingly acknowledged those problems, Beebe essentially follows up with a shrug. “Oh, well, the law is the law, and we must grimly accept our fate,” and a state-run exchange will be better than a federal exchange, although no one can really explain what the difference will be.

Brummett celebrates this mush-mouthed temporizing as a uniquely brilliant “straddle,” which is completely to be expected, because Brummett’s decades-long man-crush on Beebe is The Great Love Story of Our Age, unseemly though it may be.

Beebe’s game is to divorce the matter of the state health insurance exchange from the larger question of Obamacare, as if that’s possible. I’m guessing he has poll numbers that tell him he can win on this issue if it’s framed simply as a matter of setting up a state-run exchange vs. federal control of the exchange. The key is to keep the focus entirely on the PROCESS of setting up the exchange, while carefully avoiding any discussion of the policy or its effects, which, as seen above, even Beebe recognizes as being dreadful.

But that requires a pretty big leap of logic, because the state health insurance exchanges are, along with the individual mandate, the most significant factor in how Obamacare will be implemented. It’s going to be tough to separate them out, because they’re inseparable. (If you were following the dust-up last week between the Democratic Party of Arkansas and Little Rock’s KARK-TV, lovingly chronicled by The Tolbert Report, you saw just how incoherent that approach can be.)

What’s perhaps most notable about the whole affair is that none of these players—not Mike Beebe, not Arkansas Democrats, not even Brummett—can be bothered to make a case for how the much vaunted reforms under Obamacare might provide any benefits to Arkansans. You would think that “selling the benefits” would be their trump card, but no.

They’re hanging their hopes on questions of bureaucratic administration and applying the law “as efficiently as possible,” whatever that means, rather than trying to persuade anyone that anything good could possibly come of this extraordinarily expensive “reform” effort. Which is understandable, because as they have more and more time to look under the hood, people are realizing that the entirety of the health care reform law was built upon lots of shiny forecasts and promises to be broken.

Do we even have any idea, any more, of what those elusive “benefits” of the new law might be, at this point? Do they even exist? Maybe we’ll find out tomorrow at the (compellingly titled!) Health Benefits Exchange Stakeholders Summit in Little Rock.

*Man, the headlines on this site just get BETTER and BETTER all the time. 

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3 thoughts on “On Obamacare Health Exchange, Beebe Is Back in the Straddle Again*

  • October 11, 2011 at 12:17 am

    If Beebe’s boys can’t keep track of a paltry $161,000,000, how in the world can we expect them to handle the “state exchange because a state exchange would be better for us than a federal one?”

    On another issue you raise, of course Brummett is a Beebe Butt Boy just as Brantley is a Beebe Butt Boy. (BBB for a new moniker for the two Butt Boys maybe?) The press salivates every time Beebe belches simply because it is money in their pockets. Beebe directs the Democratic Machine to take care of the boys. Take a recent issue of the Arkansas Times for example. A 35 page “legal notice” was issued by the Auditor’s office and published in the AT. Since the AT advises others that a full page legal notice will cost somewhere north of $1500 per (Surely the AT charges all customers the same rates?), 35 pages comes up to a pretty nifty windfall for an alternative weekly with no subscribers, just free-box handouts, and those hand-outs in Central Arkansas and pretty much specifically Pulaski County. I don’t recall seeing the 35 page missive in the state-wide daily. The Great Arkansas Treasure Hunt has its own website and gets all the free press it could ask for and yet it is necessary to spend north of $50,000 to notify a few folks in Pulaski County they might have money coming from the state?

    If it looks like something and smells like something, it likely is something. Perhaps some enterprising young cub reporter would tackle the issue of finding out how many papers ran the 35 page missive, their circulation, and the cost of said legal notices. The end result would likely be pretty telling.

  • October 11, 2011 at 6:11 pm

    A week or so I ago I opened up my Arkansas Democrat Gazette and there was a special section insert for the Great Arkansas Treasure Hunt that ran some 30 pages (full page size, not the tabloid size of the Times). I believe it covered six or seven counties in Central Arkansas. You’re right, it’s a good question as to how much we’re spending on that.

  • October 11, 2011 at 6:44 pm

    Nice investigative work Enterprising Cub Reporter. Thanks for checking.


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