Townhall: AR’s “Private Option” Is A More Expensive Way to Expand ObamaCare

health-care-costs-660x400Experts have long raised questions about the budget gimmickry involved in the Obama administration’s approval of Arkansas’ Obamacare expansion waiver. The Government Accountability Office even warned that the administration and Arkansas cooked the books to secure the waiver. But now, the state’s own evaluation of the program – spearheaded by one of the program’s architects – shows just how badly Arkansas got it wrong. Continue reading

Townhall: AR Wants To Give ObamaCare Welfare For People Who Already Have Insurance

Arkansas’ Obamacare expansion, commonly known as the “Private Option,” has been a nightmare. Costs have run significantly over budget and the truly needy are being pushed to the back of the line. The Government Accountability Office reported that Arkansas’ approach was simply a more expensive way to expand Obamacare. And, surprise, the promised economic stimulus from expansion never materialized.

The program has proven wildly unaffordable for taxpayers and has become a political landmine for state legislators. Facing mounting cost overruns and serious questions about long-term sustainability, the legislature and governor agreed last year to terminate the expansion at the end of 2016.

But now Governor Asa Hutchinson has decided that the state desperately needs to keep Obamacare expansion and has called a special session that will begin April 6th to extend it. Hutchinson’s plan will also make cosmetic tweaks to the expansion and give the program a new, Orwellian name: “Arkansas Works.”

One of the key bugs, errr, “features” of this new plan is to begin utilizing employer-sponsored health insurance plans for Medicaid expansion enrollees. But there are several elements of this proposal that are cause for serious concern. Continue reading

Townhall: Where Are All The ObamaCare Jobs?

For years, hospital lobbyists have promised that Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion would kick start states’ economies and produce thousands of new jobs. (Expanding welfare always stimulates the economy, right?)

This piece of their Obamacare sales pitch is critical because, according to their calculations, these new jobs will generate the necessary revenue to pay for states’ share of the Obamacare expansion costs. The Arkansas Hospital Association, for example, made a similar guarantee, promising that most of the state’s share would be covered by new tax revenue generated by new jobs.

But now that expansion has been up-and-running for more than two years, the data is starting to paint a clearer picture of the real economic impact. And, believe it or not, Obamacare expansion isn’t living up to the hype. Continue reading

Townhall: No, Arkansas’ Obamacare Expansion Isn’t Saving Taxpayers Money

According to state law, Arkansas’ failed Obamacare expansion is set to expire at the end of this year. But Governor Asa Hutchinson has proposed overriding that deadline – which he signed into law last year – to continue providing welfare to able-bodied adults forever.

Hutchinson’s chief argument is that ending the program would create “a $100 million annual budget hole” due to lost budget “savings.” It’s a familiar refrain, used by former Democratic Governor Mike Beebe for years. There’s just one problem: it’s not true.

Arkansas’ so-called Private Option Medicaid expansion isn’t saving taxpayers money and allowing it to end won’t necessitate a massive tax increase or trigger the zombie apocalypse. In fact, allowing expansion to sunset would save taxpayers billions of dollars. Continue reading

Platte Institute: Arkansas Not a Model for Nebraska

A new paper by Jonathan Ingram and Nic Horton examine the impact an Arkansas-style Medicaid expansion would have on Nebraska:

Nebraska legislators have taken a thoughtful approach to the Affordable Care Act, carefully reviewing the evidence and ultimately declining to expand Medicaid to a new class of able-bodied adults under the law. Nevertheless, a small group of legislators lobby their colleagues each year to expand the program. The latest proposal, offered by Senator John McCollister, would copy the expansion models used by Arkansas and Iowa, homes of the highest profile “alternative” expansion models.

Under this approach, able-bodied adults receive regular Medicaid benefits through private health insurance plans sold on the Exchange, rather than through traditional Medicaid managed care. But these expansions have been unmitigated disasters and replicating the results in Nebraska would move the state backwards.

This new approach to Medicaid expansion is unaffordable and unpredictable, pushes adults out of private insurance and into taxpayer-funded welfare, puts the truly needy on the chopping block, discourages work, and shrinks the economy. So it should be no surprise that, last year, Iowa policymakers scrapped the model entirely and Arkansas enacted legislation to repeal the expansion altogether at the end of 2016. Nebraska policymakers should learn from these mistakes, not repeat them.

Read the full paper here.

Townhall.com: Shocking Report Reveals Rampant Welfare Fraud in Arkansas

The Government Accountability Office routinely warns that states’ welfare programs are at high risk for waste, fraud, and abuse. A new report, released Wednesday by Arkansas’ Medicaid task force, brings these warnings to life.

The report highlights four key vulnerabilities in the state’s Medicaid program, a program originally designed to help truly vulnerable Arkansans. But it’s now clearer than ever that tens of thousands of other Arkansans – and even non-Arkansans – are benefiting immensely from the generosity of taxpayers, stealing limited resources from the truly needy.

Tens of thousands of Medicaid enrollees have out-of-state addresses.

According to the report, nearly 43,000 Arkansas Medicaid enrollees have addresses outside of the Natural State. Most of those addresses appear to be from neighboring states, none of which expanded Medicaid through ObamaCare as Arkansas did in 2014.

Rather than becoming a “good jobs magnet” as ObamaCare supporters had promised, the state is quickly turning into a Medicaid magnet – and not just for its neighbors.

In fact, several thousand Medicaid enrollees reside in states as far away as Florida, California, and Michigan. And nearly all of them had out-of-state addresses before they were authorized to receive Medicaid in Arkansas. Worse yet, the report identified 7,000 enrollees who appear to have never lived in the state.

Continue reading

Forbes: AR’s ‘Health Independence Accounts’ Are Making Obamacare Worse

By Jonathan IngramNic Horton and Josh Archambault Mr. Ingram is Research Director, Mr. Horton a Policy Impact Specialist, and Mr. Archambault a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Government Accountability

Arkansas’s Obamacare Medicaid expansion has been a costly misadventure. The expansion has been so misguided in fact, that lawmakers voted earlier this year to end it, effective December 31, 2016.

That hasn’t stopped state bureaucrats from scurrying to institute a new component of expansion that makes the program even worse. Under this plan, some enrollees are asked to contribute nominal amounts to new “Health Independence Accounts,” or HIAs, which were supposed to mirror health savings accounts.

But these new HIAs are nothing like real health savings accounts and were destined to fail from the beginning. Now that the program is up and running, the evidence is mounting: so-called “independence” accounts are actually reducing enrollees’ “skin in the game,” and costing even more money for taxpayers.

Arkansas legislators meet in the House chamber at the Arkansas state Capitol in Little Rock, Ark. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston, File)

Health Independence Accounts Are Nothing Like Health Savings Accounts

Under this new Obamacare Medicaid expansion tweak, enrollees above the federal poverty line are “required” to make monthly contributions to HIAs. But the truth is that this “requirement” is more like a mere suggestion. If enrollees refuse to contribute to their accounts, they aren’t removed from the program.

These suggested contributions start at just $10 per month. But unlike real health savings accounts, Private Option enrollees will not use funds in their HIAs to pay for their own medical care. Instead, the money will simply sit in enrollees’ accounts until they leave the program. At that point, they can take the money with them and use it toward other health care costs. Continue reading