The latest Talk Business political roundtable centered on the health care debate and Arkansas’ upcoming Senate and Congressional elections.

Radio commentator and GOP strategist Alice Stewart, Arkansas Times associate editor David Ramsey, and Talk Business contributor and Stephens Media columnist Steve Brawner all weighed in on recent developments in the health care arena.

Stewart said President Obama’s apology for the roll out of the healthcare.gov web site wasn’t enough, especially after media reports indicated the White House political and policy staffs were split on Obama’s pronouncements that people could keep their current health insurance plans.

“If he likes that apology, he can keep it. Period. I think it was not sincere,” she said. “He led them down this road based on those promises and now the American people are finding out he was not being factually accurate.”

Ramsey said for the President and Democrats to restore credibility on the signature health insurance plan, the national web site – healthcare.gov – has to begin functioning as advertised.

“The key issue is healthcare.gov needs to be fixed and needs to be made to work. The goal the administration has made is that it will be functioning by the end of this month. If that happens, then that changes the dynamic quite a bit,” said Ramsey. “If healthcare.gov never works, then obviously this is an epic political disaster for Democrats. If it’s working a month from now and people are signing up for health insurance starting on January 1, then this is going to look a lot more like we overreacted.”

Brawner said the political stakes are high for Democrats like Sen. Mark Pryor, who is waging a tough re-election battle against Republican Cong. Tom Cotton.

“It’s tough for Democrats in red states right now,” Brawner said. “You’re talking about a fundamental remaking of a major part of the economy. That’s a tough thing. On the other hand, if you can’t make a web site work, how are you going to do this?”

The panel also discussed Arkansas’ private option, a plan shaped by state Republican leaders and supported by Democrats and Gov. Mike Beebe (D). Many GOP lawmakers did not support the private option plan.

Ramsey said the private option is working properly to enroll qualified Arkansans. He said the state has enrolled more than 50,000 in the Medicaid-supported program and that it is separate from the problematic healthcare.gov woes.

For next year’s election cycle, Brawner sees GOP opposition to the plan gaining momentum, but he said it would be complicated to campaign to take health insurance away from 50,000 who may be gaining insurance for the first time.

Stewart said she’s confident that the private option will be a defining issue in Republican primaries as incumbents and candidates supportive of the private option will likely garner more conservative primary opponents who campaign against the new program.

Stewart, Ramsey and Brawner also discussed developments in the Second District and Fourth District Congressional races. You can watch their full interview in the video below.

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