Arkansas Avoids Federal Grant For Health Care Exchanges

by Talk Business (roby@aristotle.net) 37 views 

In case you missed it, those opposed to the early implementation of ObamaCare in Arkansas had a victory last week when we turned down federal grant money to begin implementing the health care exchanges. (Quick side note here – President Obama said yesterday that he was fine with the term ObamaCare, so I now feel free to use this term to refer to the Federal Health Care Bill.)

Arkansas joins other conservative state such as Kansas, Oklahoma, and Florida in turning down these grants, which the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services sent out to 13 states.

There is one key difference here in Arkansas compared to these states and that is who is responsible.  These other states rejected the grants based on the leadership of their conservative governors – Gov. Sam Brownback in Kansas, Gov. Mary Fallin in Oklahoma, and Gov. Rick Scott in Florida.  However, in Arkansas, the credit goes to the conservative Republicans and a handful of conservative Democrats in the Arkansas House that stood up to the pressure from the Democratic majority and the Governor’s office by blocking the legislation that would have enabled the Arkansas Insurance Department to accept these funds.

It was with this backdrop that I notice the interesting spin that Gov. Beebe’s spokesman put on this in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette last week.

“As far as any other federal grants to help the state set up their own health-insurance exchanges, the Legislature made it clear that they wanted the federal government and not the state government to control the establishment of our health-care exchange. The governor has said before that he will not act unilaterally against those wishes, and he does not plan to change that stance,” Beebe spokesman Matt DeCample said.

Nice try, but not quite right.  The state legislators opposed to accepting this grant did so as they did not want to spend millions of dollars implementing ObamaCare in Arkansas when the constitutionality of the law is still being challenged in federal court.  Just last Friday, we saw that the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled portions of ObamaCare unconstitutional.  Obviously, this will eventually make it to the U.S. Supreme Court.  If it is upheld, there will be plenty of time to decide how to proceed.  Until then, it is a needless waste to spend millions setting up these exchanges.

Noted – A colleague of mine takes a slight issue with my wording saying that in reality the state chose not to apply for the grant last fall as the infrastructure was not yet in place. Then, after the state legislature chose not to set up the infrastructure, they never applied for the grants in the first place. Therefore, it is inaccurate to say they "rejected" the grant. 

Fair enough. Hopefully, I have explained it with more clarity now. Either way, you can still credit the Republicans in the House for saving the taxpayers million of dollars by not setting up an exchange that may never go into place. Yeah, I know it’s federal dollars not state dollars, but it is still taxpayer funds.

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