Tolbert: Why I Support The Private Option

by Jason Tolbert ([email protected]) 119 views 

Readers following my coverage and following me on Twitter will likely not be surprised to learn that I support the passage of the private option health care proposal.  But I think an explanation as to why is perhaps in order.

I will begin by saying that I do get the argument from the right wing of the Tea Party that desires to oppose anything that helps to facilitate the implementation of ObamaCare.  I – like them – agree that ObamaCare will impose a costly new socialized medicine system on us.  I wish that it could be stopped.

However, the fact is that ObamaCare is more than likely on its way.  The Supreme Court did not overturn the law, President Obama was re-elected, and the Democrats still control the U.S. Senate.  Therefore, while remaining an opponent, I strongly desire to see conservative push back not only for repeal but also to push back against the margins for as much reform as they are able to squeeze from the system.

The private option Arkansas plan is the result of this pushing back against the margins in Arkansas.

There are two main selling points that push me toward the position of supporting the private option.

First, the private option plan will allow many medium-sized businesses to avoid paying the costly penalties imposed by the exchanges.

Regardless of what the state legislature does, the federally mandated health care exchanges will move forward.  Under this system, an employer with more than 50 employees will incur significant penalties if they do not offer “adequate and affordable” health care coverage and they have an employee go on the exchange.

These penalties will be imposed on employers if a single employee receives a premium tax credit to participate in the exchange.  The penalty is a $2,000 annual penalty calculated on not only the employees in the exchange, but all eligible employees.  Obviously, these penalties can be significant for mid-sized employers.

Here’s the big kicker:  The private option plan would allow many employers in Arkansas to avoid these penalties.  This is because Arkansans in the 100 percent to 138 percent of poverty range would be eligible for the subsidized private option.  Employers that have employees participating in this would avoid the above-referenced penalty. Saving to employers in Arkansas are estimated to be over $35 million annually.

Do those opposing the private option and supporting the do nothing plan really want to explain to business owners in their district that the penalties could have been avoided if they had voted for the private option?

The other key point for me is my view that the federal government will implement their health care reform one way or the other.  Some still hope the measure will stop and if it does – great!  But the tragedy would be if ObamaCare moves ahead as it appears it will and Arkansas misses out on of the chance to put some real reforms in place.

The private option would move a significant number of the the Medicaid participants out of the Medicaid system and on to the private option plan.  While far from perfect, I think most conservatives can see the advantages of moving people from a government owned system onto a government subsidized system.  Obviously both are on the taxpayer dime, but the subsidized system will inject as much of the free market principles into the plan as possible.

It is key to note that even the Republicans backing the plan do not claim that it is the ideal system.  Rather, the plan is a push back against the margins to inject as much reform into what is coming down the pipe from Washington D.C., whether we like it or not.

If you oppose ObamaCare, by all means continue to elect Congressmen and Senators that pledge to repeal and fight implementation.  But let’s not expect our state legislators to do what these federal officials have not been able to do.  Let’s support this reform compromise and make sure Arkansas business owners do not have to take it on the chin in order to make a point about the federal deficit.