Expand Medicaid (Opinion)

by Talk Business & Politics ([email protected]) 56 views 

The number of people who support every aspect of the Affordable Care Act — “Obamacare” — probably can be counted on one hand.

It goes much too far for conservatives and not nearly far enough for liberals. But it’s the law of the land, according to the U.S. Supreme Court, and we’ll be surprised if that changes within the next few years, considering the yawning ideological divide between Democrats and Republicans.

What we face now is not what should be — ideology — but what is — practicalities. Practicalities dictate Arkansas take advantage of what the law offers: millions of federal dollars to extend health care to an additional 250,000 poor people.

Arkansas’ Medicaid program already covers about 750,000 people, and the state is facing an almost $400 million deficit in its Medicaid budget by mid-2013. Under the ACA, the federal government will give the state the money to pay for the expansion for three years. After that, Arkansas must begin sharing part of the cost, though that is capped at 10 percent.

The infusion of federal funds will have a ripple effect throughout Arkansas’ economy as it goes not just to cover health care for low-income families, but to pay the nurses, doctors and hospitals providing that health care. The ripple effect widens as the state of Arkansas nets taxes on the increase in income.

We know federal money isn’t free money; it’s taxpayer money. We know the U.S. budget deficit is alarmingly large, but the cost to Arkansans of rejecting the Medicaid expansion is vastly greater than the benefit to the nation of turning it down. The ACA limits those eligible for this Medicaid extension to an income of about $30,657 for a family of four. Now try to figure out how you would provide health care to your family on a household income of $30,657. That, too, is a practicality.

Healthier people work harder and longer. People who work harder and longer pay more in taxes. Helping people become and stay healthy ultimately benefits not just Arkansas but the country.