LITTLE ROCK — Failure to authorize Arkansas’ plan to use Medicaid money to subsidize private insurance coverage for the state’s working poor would cause major budget problems for the state, Gov. Mike Beebe said Friday.
During a speech to leaders of the state’s 11 independent colleges and universities. Beebe said tax cuts approved this year by the Legislature were based on projected revenue growth and savings expected from the so-called private option.
The plan calls for using federal Medicaid dollars to fund private health coverage for up to 250,000 low-income Arkansans who otherwise would be added to the Medicaid rolls at the state’s expense under the Affordable Care Act. Reauthorizing the appropriation requires a three-fourths majority vote in the House and Senate.
The budget authorization received just two extra votes in the House and one in the Senate during the regular session. If the Legislature failed to reauthorize the plan during the 2014 fiscal session, lawmakers would either have to roll back the tax cuts — $10 million this fiscal year and $160 million by FY 2015-16 — or reduce services, Beebe said.
“This isn’t an alarm folks, this is … arithmetic,” the governor said. “If you don’t continue it … you are either going to have to do away with the tax cuts … or you’re going to have to take away from somebody else, or you’re going to underfund Medicaid.”
Beebe told reporters later his comments to the educators were not based on any new concerns that lawmakers might try to delay or not approve the private option in the 2014 fiscal session.
“I’m always worried and was worried when it happened because it’s an annual deal,” he said. “You should never let your guard down and you should continue to tell the people the ramifications.”
Earlier this week, state Rep. Ann Clemmer, R-Benton, said she had heard talk that some lawmakers believe the private option should be delayed until problems with the federal health care reform law known as Obamacare are addressed.
Two of the architects of the private option, Sens. David Sanders, R-Little Rock, and Sen. Jonathan Dismang, R-Beebe, said they would not support such a move.
Beebe said his comments Friday had nothing to do with what Clemmer said.
“I’m not increasingly worried,” he said, adding that his level of concern might actually be lower now that the private option has been approved by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
“Some of the people who were reluctant and actually didn’t vote for (the private option) were publicly saying, ‘we don’t trust the feds, we don’t think they’ll agree to this, we don’t think they’ll agree to let us do what we want to do,’” Beebe said.
“We know that they let us do what we wanted to do,” he said. “We also know that other anti-Obamacare states around the country have come to the same logical conclusion we came to, so that provides additional anecdotal evidence that you can hate Obamacare all you want to but you better take care of your own state. In a way, there’s more evidence that it ought to continue now than there was then.”