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Voice From the Right: Healthcare Exchanges — A Contentious Issue

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October 22, 2011 by Justin Harris

The determination of the Governor and state health officials to jump into the murky waters of deeply flawed and misguided federal legislation is why House and Senate Republicans recently opposed the establishment of a federally mandated health insurance exchange, a key provision in President Obama’s health care law.

Because the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act forces every American to purchase health insurance or face a penalty, states are being told by the federal government to begin developing infrastructure to establish a health insurance exchange by the year 2014. An exchange is an online marketplace of standardized health care plans where individuals can purchase insurance that is eligible for federal subsidies.

In a letter sent to the Governor and the Insurance Commissioner two weeks ago, Republicans expressed opposition to the state applying for a $30.8 million federal grant to plan for a health insurance exchange. Despite supporting the ObamaCare exchange, Gov. Beebe decided against applying for the grant, citing legislative opposition. It’s important to note that the Governor is the only person with authority to move forward with applying for additional grants, and does not need legislative approval.

Moving forward to plan for an exchange with money that has federal strings attached obligates the state to rules and regulations enforced by the Obama Administration. Whether Gov. Beebe jumps in now to establish an exchange or the federal government forces one on Arkansas in the future, the end result is the same: ObamaCare in Arkansas. To date, only 13 states have established ObamaCare exchanges. Therefore, it is clear our state has sufficient time in the future to respond to the federal health care law’s demands.

It’s fiscally irresponsible to spend money to create a new government bureaucracy when the law could be declared unconstitutional in less than a year by the Supreme Court or repealed by a new Republican majority in Congress. Arkansas Republicans have said loud and clear that ObamaCare must be repealed and replaced with market-based reforms that help, rather than hurt the economy.

It’s fiscally irresponsible to move forward with the creation of an ObamaCare exchange that has the potential to bankrupt our state’s Medicaid budget by raising the income threshold to qualify for the program. The state Department of Human Services has said an exchange could increase the number of Medicaid recipients by 1 million annually. Currently, Arkansas has approximately 750,000 individuals enrolled in Medicaid. Gov. Beebe even estimated an ObamaCare exchange would require an additional $100 to $200 million in funding for our state’s Medicaid budget.

As your Representative, I will not stand with Washington bureaucrats to enable a system nearly 70 percent of Arkansans are opposed to, and I will not rush to implement a federal law that will place job-killing burdens on the backs of Arkansas’ families and businesses. You deserve better.

As I continue to serve you and your family in the Arkansas House, my focus remains on improving our economy, promoting job growth and building a better Arkansas. Please contact me ​with any issues, questions or concerns you may have. My number is 479-871-8542.

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