Obamacare Moving Forward in Arkansas

by Christine Keller

Did you know…?

Over the weekend, the Democrat majority in the Arkansas Legislative Council finally managed to force its agenda on Arkansas by voting to approve funding to implement Obamacare “health care exchanges” in Arkansas. They didn’t need the whole legislature to get this done (more on that below). (See the attached photo with names of committee members and how they voted. It was strictly along party lines.) All this is being raced through without public awareness before we even hear a decision from the Supreme Court about the Constitutionality of Obamacare. We know it is unconstitutional, but that is another story.
Here is what Representative Bruce Westerman, the new leader of the Republican House Caucus, posted on Facebook Saturday:
“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. This well known saying has been exemplified by the Governor, his Insurance Department and the majority party in Arkansas since January 2011 and they finally succeeded in getting their way yesterday by approving 7.7 million taxpayer dollars [your hard-earned dollars] to establish Health Insurance Exchanges and begin implementation of Obamacare in Arkansas… less than a couple of months from when we should know from the U.S. Supreme Court if Obamacare is even constitutional.Arkansas Republicans have fought Obamacare at every possible turn[*but wait…see below] but the numbers finally caught up with us in the Legislative Council meeting where our unanimous opposition wasn’t enough to overcome the Democratic majority on the committee and their unanimous House and Senate support to see the implementation of Obamacare in Arkansas.In the spirit of the original passage of the law where supporters decided to “pass it and then find out what’s in it”, debate was limited to 5 minutes while many legislators, including me, never got an opportunity to ask legitimate questions about what we were getting for the money. Maybe supporters of the exchanges really don’t want Arkansans to know what they’re getting for their $7.7 million. If it’s anything like what was presented in their bill in the 2011 session that could not get passed in the legislature then I know I don’t want to have anything to do with it.

It’s time for leadership in Arkansas that represents the values and desires of our citizens.”

[emphasis added]

Comment on Facebook on this topic by State Representative David Meeks: “Here is the talking point they have already tried in committee: This vote is not to implement Obamacare, but only to move forward with planning in case the SCOTUS upholds the law.They believe if we stop we will miss critical deadlines. Both are false arguments.Also note that there is $1.5 million in that grant to be used for media to make Obamacare look good or as we were told to bring about a positive climate of acceptance. Don’t be surprised to hear some of these commercials and advertisements over the air between September and November.”

Nothing like using your own hard-earned tax dollars to spread pro-Obamacare propaganda in Arkansas, huh? Doesn’t that make you feel warm and fuzzy?
*But remember this? Here is a little refresher course in recent Arkansas Legislature history to help you understand how we got to this point (posted by Mark Moore in April 2011):
HB1258 provides authorization for the insurance department to set up “health care exchanges” in order to comply with the federal health care bill known as “Obamacare.”It only took 51 votes to pass this bill in the house, but in order to fund the set up of the exchanges they had to pass an appropriation bill. That requires 75 out of 100 votes. The Democrats had to entice some Republicans who were dead set against Obama care to somehow vote to fund it.The “deal” they offered was to put an amendment on 1258 that said if Congress overturned Obamacare or the courts ruled against it then 1258 would not be implemented. In addition, they sent 1258 to interim study rather than passing it. That got the Republicans on board for the vote to fund the state insurance department’s budget- including $1 million to fund setting up the exchanges should HB1258 get passed.

If the appropriation bill had not passed, it would have shut down the Arkansas Insurance Department. To some Republican legislators, this was so unacceptable that they took the deal- vote for the Obamacare funding, but send the authorizing legislation to an interim study. Gov. Beebe got his votes.

On our facebook group “Friends of the Tea Party” I tried to warn euphoric activists that the Republicans were suckered on this one. Here is how I explained it there…

“I am not at all convinced that we won a victory in the insurance-Obamacare battle. I believe the legislators are about to learn that once they appropriate money, money with no purpose attached to it, to an agency, especially one headed by a Jay Bradford, that they will lose control over what that money is spent on.”

When one of the more hopeful freshman legislators (who is one of the good guys) mentioned that they would still have “legislative oversight” I answered….

I hope that a year to 18 months from now you can (gently) remind me that my fears were unfounded. My fear is that you are about to learn how little legislative oversight you have once men like Jay Bradford have the money. They are going to spend it to set up these exchanges, and they are not going to wait for “authorization” from you to do it.

Well, we only had to wait more like 18 hours to see that my fears were well-founded. Listen to the 1st 20 seconds of the above video of Beebe. He is asked about a “deal” made in the funding of the insurance exchanges. He says “there is no deal as far as I am concerned.” He also says “I told them no to any deal.” He has the money, and he is going to implement it anyway.

Now that they have the funding, it will be an easy matter for them to call a special session and vote through the bill they just sent to “interim study”. They need only a majority vote. Even that may not be needed, if you watch the rest of the video Beebe thinks he may have the authority to do this by executive order, but is not sure yet.

We are living in times where it may be necessary to shut down the entire federal government in the short term in order to force the spending cuts necessary to save it in the long term. In that environment, state house republicans should have had the grit to be willing to shut down one state department for a while until they agreed to strip the state Obamacare funding from the budget. Some of those fooled were freshmen. Let’s hope they learn the expensive lesson….

In the Arkansas Legislature, don’t “deal” with the bad guys, defund them.

Mark was only too right, wasn’t he? This is not to slam good guys, but to keep you informed of what is going on in Little Rock. Help spread the word to your Arkansas contacts and let’s remember that elections have consequences.