King: State should block Obamacare
LITTLE ROCK -- Although state Sen. Bryan King (R-Green Forest) on July 9 called for Gov. Mike Beebe to schedule a special session to repeal the state's implementation of Obamacare, that is unlikely to happen. King says this will cause all sorts of problems in light of the federal government's recent delays on the plan.
In his press release, King argued that going ahead with implementing the plan at the state level is premature, in light of the fact that the White House has now decided to delay the employer mandate portion of the new healthcare plan.
He said he hoped the session would allow Arkansas legislators to "provide a reasonable and thoughtful response to the challenges that Obamacare presents to us."
He said the session should focus on two main priorities: repealing Medicaid expansion in the face of what are likely to be yet more Obamacare delays in the coming months or years.
"Because Medicaid expansion was, in large part, supposed to mitigate the difficulties of the employer mandate, we are now in a situation in which we're paying for an extraordinarily expensive program which cannot deliver on its promises," King wrote.
He said the expansion "threatens to bust the state budget" with new spending obligations that can't easily be made up through spending cuts or new taxes.
"Before we go out and sign people up, people need to realize we're spending federal money on this that the federal government doesn't have," King said by phone Wednesday. "We're $16 trillion-plus in debt and spending more money each day than we're taking in. I haven't seen any plans on how the state will pay for our share. Looking at the cuts from Sequestration pales in comparison to this."
He said too much is unknown about it.
"We have the situation where we rammed this bill in at the end of the (legislative) session, and it turned into a mini-Washington, D.C., where people were offering deals for your votes," King said.
He said some early proponents of the plan are now regretting their support.
"Now I find out some of these clinics serving the rural areas are against it because they are finding out their reimbursement rates are going to change. It's another thing where you don't find out what's in it until after you've passed it. The clinics now have buyers' remorse."
He said legislators were not well-informed about what they were voting on.
"Even as legislators we weren't told everything. No one really knows what's going on. It's just an extremely frustrating and confusing time. There are a lot of unanswered questions."
Secondly, King said in his press release he wants the legislature to revisit its passage earlier this year of a state Obamacare exchange. He said the federal government's "current inability to implement Obamacare in a credible or timely fashion raises serious questions about the relative ability of the Arkansas state government (which has comparatively meager financial and administrative resources) to take over the exchange as planned."
He said legislators are already seeing exchanges that are more expensive than predicted.
The employer mandate will spell trouble, he predicts.
"Some businesses have stated they're going to go ahead and pay the penalty (for not adopting or dropping coverage for their employees) because that will cost them less."
Earlier this year the governor said he will not call a special session on the Medicaid expansion, that he wanted to legislature to decide on its during the regular session. Beebe reiterated that decision in a recent response to King, calling the state's Obamacare provisions "hard-earned, bipartisan accomplishments" that he's not going to call a session to undo.
People can start signing up for Obamacare on Oct. 1 this year.
In the meantime, King said the legislature will meet in fiscal session in February 2014, and he plans to support a measure to get the state government to stop implementing Obamacare, with all its uncertainties.
"I certainly intend to make it my top priority in the 2014 fiscal session to end the funding for the 'private option,'" he said in his press release.
He said many of his conservative colleagues will vote with him.
"All that is necessary to end this program next year is for 26 House members or nine senators to refuse to fund it."
He said under Obamacare, many people will see 50- to 100-percent increases in their health insurance premiums.
"That's why I said to wait," he said Wednesday. "No one really knows what's going on. Now we're having surcharges put on our healthcare plans to pay for some of the things that were in the original bill. It's like they're making things up as they go."