Beebe Playing ‘rope-a-dope’ On Health Insurance Exchanges

by Talk Business ([email protected]) 86 views 

I’ve got a working theory that Governor Mike Beebe may be playing "rope-a-dope" with Arkansas Republican legislators.  First, a quick explanation before I get to the theory.

Last week, Insurance Commissioner Jay Bradford appeared before a legislative committee asking them to reconsider their opposition to the setting up a health insurance exchange program, which is part of Obama’s health care reform plan.  Bradford and Beebe want to apply for a federal $3.8 million grant and, while Beebe has the power to apply for the grant without legislative approval, he wanted the blessing of the Legislature.  

In the legislative session earlier this year, Republicans opposed Beebe’s efforts to set up a health insurance exchange program and threatened to defund Arkansas’s Insurance Department if it passed.  If carried out, the Republican threat would have had almost catastrophic effects on Arkansas’ economy. Sounds just like the Republicans in Washington.

Republican legislators oppose the plan partly because they oppose any part of the health care reform bill, regardless of its merits.  And it seems part of their strategy is to delay implementation of any part of the health care reform so that it’s easier to stop if it’s declared unconstitutional.

Republican legislators hope the U.S. Supreme Court declares Obamacare unconstitutional and are willing to take a chance of ceding state control of the health insurance exchanges to the federal government.

To me, having an online database where folks without health insurance, and who qualify under federal guidelines, can go to price and compare health insurance plans sounds like a good idea. Click here for an brief explanation of health insurance exchange. 

Arkansas Republicans don’t feel the same, however, since anything Barack Obama proposes must always be opposed, even if it’s good for Arkansas consumers.

Governor Beebe must have known Republicans weren’t going to budge in their opposition to the federal grant.  Was he expecting Republican legislators to all of a sudden praise Obama and support a piece of Obamacare? I doubt it.

Last week, Republicans predictably once again opposed Governor Beebe applying for the grant.

Arkansas State Chamber President Randy Zook was disappointed in the opposition to the setting up the program: “We just think it would be better to have an exchange governed and managed by folks in Arkansas than be forced to deal with bureaucrats in Washington.”  It seems the state Chamber of Commerce and various health insurance companies favor this portion of Obamacare and want the state to control its implementation.

Some Republican pundits believe Beebe was looking for political cover when asking for legislative blessing on applying for the grant, but I think Beebe was playing a bit of "rope-a-dope" with Republicans.  He already knew what punches were coming and just let Republicans legislators tire themselves out a bit before counter-punching. 
This email earlier this week from the Democratic Party of Arkansas got me to thinking along these lines:

"Can you believe the latest example of Arkansas Republicans putting political ideologies first and Arkansans second? During the legislative session, they voted to defund and shut down the Arkansas Insurance Department, a move that would have cost thousands of Arkansas jobs. Their reason? They did not want Arkansas to be in control of the state’s Health Insurance Exchange, giving control instead to the federal government."

It appears that Governor Beebe and Arkansas Democrats have a strategy on this issue and are now executing the offense portion of the plan.  They’re painting a picture of Republicans placing ideology before Arkansans, and allowing the federal government to control key parts of the health care, instead of the state. 

Arkansas Democrats must know that the Obamacare attacks are coming next fall and maybe the theory is that it’s better to hit first rather than waiting to just get attacked. Will this strategy work?  Maybe, maybe not, but it seems to be a strategy.  And, a consistent strategy is always better than no strategy at all.