Arkansas is making big changes to how it’s confronting the Obamacare debacle, and it’s something other states should consider.
With Obamacare’s flaws causing major problems in the healthcare industry, Arkansas legislators have made some key changes, including work requirements for the Medicaid expansion program and reducing eligibility for working-age adults who are not disabled. (via National Review)
In his illuminating piece for National Review, Nicholas Horton, a senior research fellow at the Foundation for Government Accountability, explains the problem Obamacare has created for Arkansas and the three-part plan Republican legislators are using to fight back.
In the beginning, implementing Obamacare seemed like a wonderful solution to the state’s problems: cheap and affordable healthcare for everyone. Democratic Governor Mike Beebe sold the idea that Arkansas would expand Medicaid through Obamacare. Shortly after leaving office in 2015, Arkansas was hit with reality, and many of those in need didn’t have the assistance they required, while others were taking advantage of the subsidies and doing less to maintain eligibility.
Governor Asa Hutchinson — a Republican — has endorsed a plan to reduce Obamacare’s effect on the state, and it seems to be working already.
The first element of the plan is the work requirement provision. In May, a bill was passed that requires enrollees to meet certain work requirements before obtaining health insurance. This ensures that only those who absolutely need Medicaid would have it, as many others would qualify through work or could afford insurance on their own without government aid. Such a requirement takes the pressure off the state’s budget, and many enrollees would no longer need or be eligible for Obamacare.
The next element of the plan aims to reduce Medicaid eligibility for working-age adults who aren’t disabled, thereby reducing the burden on Medicaid funding. This does not mean that non-disabled, working adults, can’t get coverage on Medicaid, but it means they won’t be fully covered by Medicaid. Gov. Hutchinson wants to lower the eligibility to the poverty line, but is willing to take small steps to get Arkansas to that point. So far they have helped 60,000 individuals become independent with this part of the measure.
The final key element Arkansas lawmakers are pursuing is an enrollment freeze for Medicaid expansion. Such a bill was presented to the Arkansas legislature earlier in 2017, but was ultimately rejected by the state senate. The bill proposed freezing Medicaid enrollment temporarily and allowed existing enrollees to continue using Medicaid until their income increased. Horton described the implications of such a freeze, emphasizing that it would have freed thousands of Arkansans from a welfare program and given the state additional revenue to serve the truly needy.
Essentially, Arkansas’ plan of attack is to limit the number of individuals obtaining Medicaid who don’t legitimately need it, thereby giving those who do need it the funding and opportunity to have coverage. Able-bodied adults need jobs more than they need welfare, and Arkansas has recognized this fact.
Many liberals may likely claim this is simply attempting to rip healthcare away from the poor , a spurious attack being made against Obamacare reform in Congress, but in reality, this is about creating independence for Americans.
Unfortunately, the Obama administration made Obamacare and a key component of the program, Medicaid expansion, sound like a slam dunk. But policymakers, especially in state legislatures, are realizing that not all that glitters is gold. Obamacare has largely been a disaster, and now our elected officials must make difficult decisions — decisions that may be unpopular, at least for a time.
States like Arkansas are leading the way towards sustainable and commonsense healthcare reform that better serves the truly needy and breaks the welfare cycle that trap so many. It’s only a matter of time before other states take notice of Arkansas and follow suit.