The article below by Debbie Pelley was published in the Jonesboro Sun, May 3, 2013, page A5

GOP Hoodwinked by 'Private Option' Medicaid expansion

A recent guest editorial in the Sun by Arkansas Chamber of Commerce president Randy Zook,  praising the new Arkansas 'Private Option' Medicaid Expansion Plan, naively infers that whether this  'Private Option' is Obamacare or not is of no significance.  Really?   1

Citizens of Arkansas ousted Democrat Blanche Lincoln for her vote to implement Obamacare, and all Republican candidates ran campaigns on opposition to Obamacare - the main issue that resulted in Republicans winning the first legislative majority in Arkansas in 138 years.

It must be of great significance then to Arkansans to know whether Obamacare was implemented in Arkansas or not - especially since the U. S. Supreme Court's ruling gave states the choice about expanding Medicaid coverage. Presently only 15 to 20 states are planning to expand Medicaid, and no other state in the South has done so. As a result of legislation passed this session, Arkansas is now shown on maps with other "blue states" like California, Washington, and Massachusetts as participating in Obamacare. 3

As legislators debated this issue, conservatives back home intensely lobbied their Republican legislators, telling them the Private Option was just another way of implementing Obamacare because it would add 250,000 to Medicaid rolls, would use federal Medicaid money to purchase private health insurance for new enrollees, would be controlled by the federal government and Arkansas Human Services, would cost about twice as much as not expanding Medicaid, would be hailed by the media as Obamacare, and would possibly cost them the majority in the next election. 

Conservatives, believing Obamacare will fail for lack of funds if states reject Medicaid Expansion, pleaded with their Republican representatives to join the other states and reject it. Even liberals like  Senator Max  Baucus, who has been at the forefront of health care reform,  says he sees a train wreck coming soon with Obamacare and announced he will not seek re-election in 2014. 4

Conservatives pointed out that other states, including Louisiana and South Carolina, had studied the Arkansas plan, and had rejected it (and now so has Florida). 5

South Carolina’s Medicaid director Tony Keck, questions Arkansas Republicans' wisdom, saying “It [AR plan] covers the same number of people, with the same benefits and is more expensive...Keck argues that buying private insurance is one of the worst ways to use those extra funds [Medicaid federal funds]"  And Congressional Budget Office estimates that private plans may cost 50 percent more than the Obama Medicaid expansion.  5 & 6


After much wrangling and after Republican legislators had been picked off one by one by "threats and intimidations against their families, their livelihood and their reputation,"  they  approved the appropriation bill to implement the Private Option. (These threatening techniques as described by a legislator on the House floor, are quite fitting for Obamacare's  passage in Arkansas.) 7  


The next day  headlines like the following appeared in the state and across the nation: "It’s a huge day for Obamacare in Arkansas,"  "Obamacare rules," and  "Arkansas Legislature Sends Obamacare Medicaid Expansion Bill To Governor."   Not what the Republican leaders wanted or expected! 8


Not one single Democrat voted against the laws that had to do with the passage of this Medicaid Expansion.  Liberals Max Brantley and John Brummett also constantly pushed this Private Option bill, indicating it is a Democratic bill pushed by the Democrat leaders, Obama and Beebe. 9


AP Andrew Demillo aptly described the Private Option bill as a compromise - "a compromise proposal to offer coverage to thousands of uninsured residents in a way that allows Republicans supporters to cast themselves as still opposing 'Obamacare.'"  10


But Republican supporters didn't buy it.  They  know it is Obamacare and are extremely angry that Obama's Medicaid Expansion was passed in the first legislative session held by a Republican majority in over a century.


And 29 conservative groups have already signed on to the process of getting a referendum on the ballot to reverse the law - the ballot title has already been sent to the Attorney General for approval by Arkansans Against Big Government (AABG). 11


Ultra liberal journalist John Brummett, who speaks personally with the Governor, summarizes how this massive expansion of a government entitlement program and redistribution of wealth took place in Arkansas. 12


Brummett says as if  speaking for the Governor,  "It went this way:  If we take all this federal money and put everybody now on Medicaid into the federal expansion through this private option, then the state will save money; then but only then, would there be balances in the surplus account; for tax cuts and local projects from the General Improvement Fund...If we didn't create  the Medicaid savings, we'd have to use the surplus to plug the status-quo drain of Medicaid costs.  Thus we would not be able to afford tax cuts or higher education capital projects or local earmarks."  Could we call that blackmail?


Then Brummett praises Beebe for his conniving, coercive behavior saying, "Gov. Mike Beebe, still apparently smarter than everyone else in the Capitol...had managed to forge a deal with the Republican legislative leadership."


We conservative citizens are perfectly willing for the implementation of Obamacare to be laid at the Democratic governor's feet and to acknowledge that Beebe possesses the same qualities that we see every day in President Obama - deceitfulness, deviousness, duplicity, and betrayal.  It just surprises us a little for John Brummett to publicly flaunt it.

Debbie Pelley


1. Jonesboro Sun Guest Editorial,  April 27, 2013 "'Private option' best path forward for state"  by Randy Zook,  president and chief executive officer of the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce.

2. "Expanding Medicaid still up in air in Arkansas by Charlie Frago, July 22, 2012, in Arkansas Democrat Gazette - "At the end of June, the U.S. Supreme Court, in its landmark decision on President Barack Obama’s health-care law, allowed states to choose whether to expand their Medicaid programs to take in poor people who hadn’t previously qualified."

3.  Two links for maps showing states participating and  The number of states will vary according to the website.

4. "Top Dem Sen. Baucus warns of 'train wreck' for Obama health law"  and "Baucus Continues to Push Health Care Reform, 2009"   and "Baucas, Powerful Montana Democrat, Will Leave Senate.

5. "Louisiana and S. Carolina Both Reject Arkansas Plan for Medicaid Expansion"

6. "Congressional Budget Office estimates suggest that private plans may cost 50 percent more than the Medicaid expansion in Obamacare."

7. 'Private option' funding bill passes House on second try," Arkansas Democrat Gazette April 16, 2013,    "Rep. Nate Bell, R-Mena, said some of his colleagues received "threats and intimidations against their families, their livelihood and their reputation."  Max Brantley reports it came from House Floor.

8. "Quotes That Show Private Option is Obamacare"

9. Max Brantley wrote the article "Obamacare Rules" the day the Private Option was passed, and John Brummett's view is quoted in this article.  Both also wrote other articles on it.

10." Private option tough sell for Republicans" in Jonesboro Sun by AP Andrew Demillo  " That hurdle is what’s keeping Arkansas from enacting something that seemed impossible just a few months ago — a compromise proposal to offer coverage to thousands of uninsured residents in a way that allows Republican supporters to cast themselves as still opposing 'Obamacare.'”

11. Press Release on referendum attempt to reverse Medicaid Expansion law. 

12.  The Rhythm of Legislative Life by John Brummett in Arkansas Democrat Gazette April 28, 2013 Link still accessible as of May 1, 2013 Link still accessible as of May 1, 2013

Posted May 24, 2013 by Debbie Pelley