‘Private option’ opponents get OK for ballot push

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 81 views 

Voters may get a chance to decide whether or not to keep the “private option” plan approved by state lawmakers and signed into law by Gov. Beebe (D).

Tea Party activist Glen Gallas and his organization, Arkansans Against Big Government (AABG), have received approval from Attorney General Dustin McDaniel (D) to move forward with a ballot referendum on the Health Care Independence Act of 2013. It was the third attempt by the group to seek McDaniel’s approval of the language.

“It is my conclusion that the popular name you have submitted is acceptable and it is hereby certified without modification,” said McDaniel.

McDaniel also provided further color on the nature of his review: “The purpose of my review and certification is to ensure that the popular name and ballot title honestly, intelligibly, and fairly set forth the purpose of the proposed amendment or act.

“The popular name is primarily a useful legislative device. It need not contain detailed information or include exceptions that might be required of a ballot title, but it must not be misleading or give partisan coloring to the merit of the proposal. The popular name is to be considered together with the ballot title in determining the ballot title’s sufficiency.”

McDaniel did recommend a “more suitable, complete, and correct ballot title” to be substituted for the one proposed.

According to the initiative, the referendum “enables the people to vote for or against The Health Care Independence Act of 2013,” which was enacted by the 89th General Assembly as identical Acts 1497 and 1498.

A vote “for” the measure would approve and maintain the act, while a vote “against” the measure would repeal it.

The “private option” approved by lawmakers allows federal Medicaid dollars to be steered to a forthcoming health insurance exchange, which is under implementation in Arkansas. Federal Medicaid officials must still approve the Arkansas plan that the ballot initiative seeks to overturn.

One hundred percent of the funding for the program would be provided by the federal government from 2014 through 2016 for “newly eligible” individuals. The funding would be decreased down to 95% in 2017, 94% in 2018, 93% in 2019, and 90% afterward.

With the Attorney General hurdle cleared, AABG can now begin collecting signatures to qualify for the general election ballot in 2014. The group will need to collect a minimum of 46,880 registered Arkansas voters in order to meet the ballot threshold, according to the Arkansas Secretary of State’s office.