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Hope Star - Hope, AR
  • House seeks ways to move on

  • The Arkansas House of Representatives leadership sought to make one more “horse trade” on the so-called Medicaid “private option” last week, the impact of which wasn't known at press time today; but, some legislative observers aren't betting that it's a done deal.
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  • The Arkansas House of Representatives leadership sought to make one more “horse trade” on the so-called Medicaid “private option” last week, the impact of which wasn't known at press time today; but, some legislative observers aren't betting that it's a done deal.
    The horse trading has been done; there is no more negotiation to be had,” former state representative David “Bubba” Powers noted. “This has been debated; there are no more questions there, so vote it up or down.”
    The House was to reconvene at 1:30 p.m. today.
    Powers said the “private option” concept through which the federal government pays for private insurance coverage for Medicaid-eligible Arkansans is not going to change for all of the debate that has occurred.
    The private option in our state has been tweaked and made to help our state,” Powers said. “Everybody who isn't led by an ideology agrees this is a no-brainer. The right policy has been made; but, there is going to be a continued assault on it into the next session.”
    Powers' assessment may prove too prophetic as House Speaker Davy Carter huddled with supporters and opponents Wednesday and Thursday to work out one more tweak around the edges of the concept.
    The latest idea is to bring opponents to the table to adopt the funding mechanism for the concept itself, which is part of the Department of Human Services budget, while closing the enrollment period on March 31, 2015, rather than allow it to remain open year-round.
    Enrollment would open, again, in October and presumably close, again, the following March, under the plan reported Friday by the Associated Press.
    That kind of trimming around the edges of the central concept isn't going to change any hearts, Power said.
    I don't think there is any question that the problem is simply an ideology,” he said. “There is nothing in this world that President Obama can do to please a segment of the population.”
    Page 2 of 3 - The underpinnings of the “private option” concept in the federal Affordable Care Act, commonly called Obamacare, have created a philosophical divide that has finally surfaced in the now-Republican controlled Arkansas General Assembly.
    State Representative Brent Talley, D-McCaskill, who will face voters in Hempstead and Nevada counties this year, agrees.
    This is the whole DHS budget,” Talley said. “We have people talking about whether they still will have coverage to get their medical needs met.”
    He said the debate is beyond whether refusing to fund “private option” will have an impact on the rest of the state budget. He said he has to support the funding because failing to do so jeopardizes the budget for the University of Arkansas Community College at Hope.
    Obviously, higher education is one of those areas that would be looked at,” Talley said. “If we have to make a $90 million adjustment to the budget, we may see that; and, I would not be for that.”
    He said most House Democrats understand his position.
    I think there is a pretty good understanding of the importance of that to our state and communities,” Talley said.
    He said he doesn't see where any “horse trading” will affect what is a philosophical question.
    It took everybody in the House last session to get it where it is; and, to change it in the fiscal session is just not reality. There are really no deals for any kind of appropriation,” Talley said. “The speaker is not throwing around money to get the votes.”
    State Representative Mary “Prissy” Hickerson, R-Texarkana, said she has been monitoring the discussions between Carter and House opponents; but, she had no comment on the prospects for a resolution.
    Powers, who served three terms in the House, weighed in for Hickerson.
    She understands policy and she is going to do what is best for her people and the state of Arkansas,” he said.
    Page 3 of 3 - Powers said opponents have simply played a game of attrition, in part, by not being present to vote.
    This is just people playing games,” he said. “Be a big boy and stand up for what you believe; be there to vote, and quit voting 'present.' I'm exasperated with the gamesmanship going on.”
    Some 11 House members, mostly Republican opponents of the “private option,” have not cast a vote for the record.
    Ultimately, Powers thinks Carter may have overplayed his hand with stubborn House members.
    Not every one of those votes is ideological,” Powers said. “I think he has done some things that are beneficial for the state. But, that is ultimately the problem. Are the Republicans to blame? Are the Democrats to blame? It's been a blame game for years in Little Rock.
    The state can't work without a DHS budget, no more than it can work without a prisons budget or a schools budget,” he said. “Those folks have to realize they have lost the fight and go on and govern.”

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