Lexington County Chronicle
May 19, 2016
By Rep. Charlie Collins
When President Barack Obama signed the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) into law over six years ago, this hard-core, right-wing Republican member of the Arkansas House of Representatives was extremely upset.
The ACA raised 20 federal taxes and moved federal reimbursement dollars from the Medicare budget (care for seniors) to help fund Medicaid expansion. The President ran up the credit card of every state in the nation to pay for this.
While many Americans began fighting to repeal the law, Arkansans not only joined them but we wanted our money back.
After Obamacare passed, 49 states chose one of two plans give them by the feds.
- States chose either to expand traditional government-run Medicaid
- Continue to let the low income uninsured get free healthcare by simply using the most expensive treatment option that exists, the hospital emergency room.
Arkansas told the feds that we didn’t want to expand traditional Medicaid. But we realized that since Arkansas taxpayers were going to help pay for the states that did expand Medicaid, we had to find a solution to get back money President Obama had already taken from us.
Our solution was to tell the feds that we wanted to use private health insurance for the low income uninsured and we wanted the feds to give us back our dollars to pay for it. To our surprise, they agreed.
In 2014 we became the first state to expand Medicaid privately. This allowed us to slow state spending on our traditional Medicaid program and shift state healthcare spending for prisoners and institutionalized mental health patients to the federally-financed private option program. As a result, we cut the state income tax by over $100 million the first year.
We called the program Arkansas Works because it has more personal responsibility.
It will save Arkansans $750 million in state spending over the next 5 years.
Our people are healthier today and also have more money in their pockets.
States like South Carolina have not expanded Medicaid nor created their own private option, leaving their tax dollars in Washington DC for the Feds to spend.
We prefer tax cuts in Arkansas.
The good news is that South Carolina and other states can still develop their own private Medicaid expansion. That doesn’t mean you support Obamacare. It means that you don’t want to lose your tax dollars and get nothing in return.
Rep. Charlie Collins of Fayetteville is co-chairman of the Health Reform Legislative Task Force.