Monday, April 25, 2016

The Fat Lady Has Sung - “It’s Arkansas Works”

by Dr. Jack Sternberg, Contributing Author: It’s over. Arkansas Works has passed and has been funded.

What else have I personally observed and learned from what has gone on over the last two weeks. And of course, my thoughts can’t include everything that has happened. There’s no way to be comprehensive. I anticipate and expect many to disagree with some or even many of my personal opinions but I have always tried to be honest in my personal opinion pieces.
  • I have learned that only a minority of our elected officials keep the promises they made while running for office. For most, politics gets in the way of integrity and principles. So sad, but considering what I have now witnessed over the vote for Arkansas Works, I believe my observation to be true.
  • Those that do keep their word will be attacked, misrepresented, maligned and threatened politically, materially and physically (and one actually had some of his personal property destroyed).
  • I’ve come to realize and accept that many of the newly elected Republicans are not really true conservatives Republicans but were masquerading as Republicans so as to get elected in a state that has turned red (Republican). Many of these legislators would have been Blue Dog Democrats (conservative Democrats) just a few years ago. In all fairness, maybe they should just be considered moderates (you decide what that means) since they are at least not fully liberal and left leaning as are today’s Democrats.
  • I’m not actually upset (but that doesn’t mean I’m happy) with Governor Hutchinson as many are over Arkansas Works and his method for getting it funded. (It’s obvious he really wants to keep 250,000 plus indigents insured while allowing $1.7 billion dollars to come into Arkansas). I remember very well during the time Asa was running for office. He never said that he would get rid of the Private Option (many I speak to seem to have forgotten this). He said he would study it and decide what he wanted to do. So his wanting to continue the Medicaid Expansion was not breaking his word or any promise. What he did was to have two advisory task forces (I personally was on one of them) and hired the Stephen’s Group to attempt to recommend ways to “fix the Private Option.” To be totally honest, we didn’t come up with much in the way of significant recommendations (outside of making it more efficient and getting rid of fraud and abuse – duh!). The governor came up with changing the name from Private Option to Arkansas Works and a few minor tweaks (a work requirement, a small monthly fee for some) and then the Federal Government refused to grant the necessary waivers. So essentially nothing changed. So, the Private Option = Arkansas Works.
  • At first I was angry, annoyed and disappointed with the governor when I heard the plan for amending the DHS funding bill with an amendment that would defund Arkansas Works on 12/31/2016. Why, because it was ploy known by all, that the governor has line item veto power and that he planned to veto that amendment thereby re-inserting funding for Arkansas Works after it passed. Then, it would no longer require 75% to vote for funding. It would then require 50% votes to override his veto and that would be impossible to get. So, the entire DHS funding bill would now pass. The more I thought about it, the more I had to admire his ingenuity (even though I didn’t like it) since all this was 100% legal and fully within the rules of the Arkansas government. It wasn’t even a secret trick since everyone knew his intention. Sadly, what it did do was to get two Senators to vote for the bill who had previously been against it (do they really think their constituents don’t know that they caved in?). Now, the bill could and did pass in both the Senate and House.
I also had to admit to myself that if the governor used a similar ploy to get a conservative piece of legislation passed (such as Pro-Life or Pro 2nd Amendment), we conservatives would probably be ecstatic and consider it brilliant and applaud him for his political savvy.
  • What I really found most objectionable was the scare tactics used by so many to try to convince the voters that the “sky would fall” and DHS would shut down (hurting the children and seniors, etc.) along with just about everything in Arkansas being underfunded. To those in the know, these claims seemed overstated and wildly exaggerated. They were reminiscent of the methods Governor Beebe and Democrats used in past to pass bills into law.
So, in conclusion, as of today, Saturday, April 23, 2016, Arkansas Works will continue to be funded. Over 250,000 indigent patients will continue to have medical insurance thereby allowing doctors, hospitals and others in the medical field to get paid for their services (and that’s a good thing). This year, the Federal government will pay 100% of the cost, 95% next year and then 90% in 2020 with Arkansas taxpayers covering the difference in the future. The money Arkansas receives will be printed by the Treasury and will further raise the out of control National debt. Those who have Arkansas Works, those who are between 18 and 65 and are healthy and capable of working, will now receive equal healthcare to those who work, pay taxes and also contribute to the cost of their health insurance. But, to those in poverty, their healthcare will be totally for free. No deductibles, no co-pays or co-insurance and all medications free (somehow that just doesn’t seem fair to those who work and pay taxes). And that’s bad.

Let me close with statement concerning my personal tension I have over all aspects of Arkansas Works:
Jack Sternberg, MD, is a retired medical doctor and  Chairman, Garland County TEA Party Patriots in Arkansas.

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