Sen. Pryor: Obamacare needs ‘fixes,’ not repeal

story by Ryan Saylor

U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., who last week found an opponent in Republican freshman U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Dardanelle, said on Tuesday night (Aug. 13) that he has not received backlash from his assertion last week that the Affordable Care Act is creating jobs.

In defending his statements made Aug. 8 to the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce, Pryor cited a RAND study that touts the economic boost the state could receive from the ACA, commonly referred to as Obamacare. In the chamber speech, Pryor referred to a Rand study saying the new health care law would create more than 6,000 jobs in Arkansas.

The study Pryor cites said about 6,200 hundred new jobs would be created "by economic growth stemming from insurance expansion."

Pryor also said the job creation would be new positions created by by private business through larger customer bases associated with Rand's estimated additional 401,000 insured Arkansans and businesses that are taking some sort of government funding or subsidy tied to the affordable care act.

"My guess is it's going to be a mix of a little bit of everything. You're probably going to see more jobs in healthcare because there's going to be more healthcare available to people. More people will have insurance. About 500,000 Arkansans will have insurance as a result of this. That's huge, if you think about it. That's one sixth of our population. One out of six people will have private insurance for healthcare that don't have it today. I'm assuming as part of that, you'll see more people working in different aspects of healthcare, there's going to be more paying customers in healthcare. Also, you need to remember that there's a lot of tax credits in this law for individuals and families and small businesses and they will get tax credits for themselves and people in their company to help afford health insurance."

The same Rand study Pryor quotes does claim $550 million in net economic growth, though the study says that the growth is "accounting for subsidies, Medicaid expansion, taxes, and Medicare cuts." The study also claims that the that the calculations are projections to "reflect likely conditions in 2016, given a fully implemented Affordable Care Act."

Pryor's doubling down on the Affordable Care Act comes even as polls show Arkansans overwhelmingly against the law.

In a poll conducted last year by Talk Business, 58% of likely voters contacted said opponents of the law should continue attempts to block it. Another 46.5% said they were against an expansion of Medicaid in Arkansas, which eventually was passed by the state legislature and has become known as the "private option."

Even with public opinion possibly not on his side, Pryor said he would still back the law, especially now that the act is the law of the land.

"I don't know that I'd say I'm doubling down, but it is the law of the land, it went to the U.S. Supreme Court. They decided it. The House has now tried to repeal it 40 times. They're not going to repeal it, it's just not going to happen. At some point, you have to decide, OK. Are we going to continue beating our head against a wall or are we going to try to make this law work better?" he asked. "And I'll be the first to tell you, this law is far from perfect. It's not perfect. It's needs some fixes. I've lead the charge on some of those and I'll continue to do that on some of those changes, as well. You know, it's a work in progress and healthcare is very, very complicated. There's no doubt that it is a big and complicated piece of legislation and probably if you get say 80% of it right, then you've done something."

Pryor, who was in Fort Smith for a speech to the Military Officers Association of America meeting in Fort Smith, said he would continue working with his colleagues in the Senate to fix what he called the "other 20%."

"That's one of the differences between my opponent and me. He wants to repeal, repeal, repeal. He's not offering any kind of solution to make health care more affordable, more accessible. He's not trying to get health care out in rural America. He's not trying to help poor people with health care. All he's trying to do is repeal, repeal, repeal."