Yesterday, Forbes published an insightful piece about the Arkansas Obamacare “private” option. The bottom line for Arkansas taxpayers: for the second month in a row, the “private” option costs are well above projections and above the federal cap.
The Forbes article (authored by Josh Archambault and Jonathan Ingram of the Foundation for Government Accountability) outlines what could happen if “private” option costs continue to climb:
…under terms of the waiver signed by Governor Beebe and the Obama administration, the federal cap will only grow by 4.7 percent annually. The state, in its waiver request, predicted costs to rise by roughly 5 percent per year. When the Private Option originally passed, the state’s consultants predicted costs would increase by roughly 6.5 percent annually. Actuaries at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services predict per-person costs in the individual health insurance market will rise by roughly 6 percent per year during the next three years.
Not only has Arkansas exceeded the initial cap in February and March, but if the costs grow even a few percentage points faster than the waiver allows, state taxpayers will be forced to repay the federal government hundreds of millions of dollars.
Currently, PO costs are 11% above original projections.
The news of continued cost overruns did not receive a warm welcome back here in Arkansas: state Senator David Sanders, the father of Obamacare implementation in Arkansas, blasted the Forbes article on Twitter yesterday — saying, “There is a lot wrong with this.” He then tweeted that “Life is easy when you create your own set of facts.” I wanted to know if Sanders had concrete grounds to support these grandiose criticisms, so I invited him to write a rebuttal for our blog. (What does Sanders think is wrong with the Forbes piece? Was Sanders creating his own set of facts? Inquiring minds want to know.)
I offered Sanders as much space as he wanted to opine on the subject. Space is cheap out here on the Internet frontier, and some people even think that 140 characters isn’t always sufficient to dispose of health care policy questions. I was sure Sanders would be anxious to set the record straight. But more than 24 hours later, I have received no response to my offer.
Rep. Nate Bell also chimed in via Twitter to claim that the article “makes a premature assumption” — which was a weird thing to say, because the article makes no assumptions whatsoever. Instead, it presents numbers that came from state government and informs readers of the possible future consequences of continued cost increases, according to easily confirmed facts that came from the terms of the waiver. This isn’t theory; this isn’t conjecture. These are hard numbers and real terms of agreement that the state has entered into with the federal government. Perhaps Bell didn’t read the piece very carefully and made a premature assumption of his own. If Bell thinks that the Forbes article is drawing incorrect inferences, I’d be delighted to know what he thinks they are.
These criticisms from Sanders and Bell are, in their own way, wonderful demonstrations of basic facts of life: insisting that you disagree isn’t an argument; it’s just contradiction. An argument is a connected series of statements intended to establish a proposition, and I suspect that Sanders and Bell are well aware that just proclaiming disagreement is very far away from (and not nearly as convincing as) making an argument.
Keep your computers, iPhones, iPads, and transistor radios tuned to The Arkansas Project — in the unlikely event that Senator Sanders (or any other legislative advocate of Medicaid expansion) wants to write us an article that argues against the Forbes piece, we’ll be happy to publish it.