- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Arkansas newspapers:

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Feb. 25, 2014:

The word from the boss

A lot of Arkansans/Arkansawyers have mixed feelings about the Private Option, which may explain why the Legislature does. It just comes with the territory, which is called representative government. If the people are divided, their representatives will be, too. The state legislature certainly is: While the Senate has approved this way to expand Medicaid, the House still balks. And will surely be asked to vote on the issue again. What is this, the fourth or fifth time? Will that be the charm?

Why is the Private Option proving so contentious an issue? Maybe because its very name is. For this “private option” is scarcely private. Quite the contrary. It’ll require more and more public funds, state and federal, to finance it as the years pass. Let’s just say it’s not exactly a prize example of truth-in-labeling.

Yet the speaker of the House appears determined to call the thing up for a vote as many times as it takes to pass it. And if Davy Carter doesn’t succeed in twisting enough arms to get it through at first, he’ll try and try again-and again and again … .

The speaker’s message to the House last week was clear enough: If its members ever want to go home, they’ll have to do Boss Carter’s bidding and approve the Private Option during this fiscal session of the Legislature. That’s the plain meaning of Davy Carter’s statement/ threat last week:

“We’re going to get this issue resolved, and there’s no question to that. There’s 100,000-plus people out there that are literally hanging on (to) what we do up here, and this is serious business and this membership is going to take this seriously.” The “or else” at the end of that order was understood.

The trail boss on the old Rawhide serial on television couldn’t have been more emphatic as he told his cowboys to round up the herd and head ‘em out. Any resemblance between democracy and just following orders may be purely coincidental when it comes to this proposal. It may be only a matter of time before the stampede begins and the whole dubious package passes. Maybe today.

Surely no one would deny the state’s poorest Medicaid coverage, and make their lives still poorer. Here is a chance to use federal dollars (Free Money!) to expand the state’s Medicaid rolls. What’s not to like? Yet the vote in the House keeps falling just short of the magic 75 needed to sign on to this Free Giveaway & Chance of a Lifetime. Why is that?

For starters, this deal isn’t exactly a bird’s nest on the ground, whatever its most ardent backers claim. There are strings attached. For example, the state’s share of the cost for Private Option will increase once it’s safely in place and the state has grown used to it. Like any other dealer, the feds are offering samples of their addictive product at a reduced rate-at first. Then the price goes up once we in Arkansas have grown dependent on it. It’s a standard sales ploy in such matters: First get the suckers hooked. Then they’ll pay any price for the stuff.

There are few habits harder to break than accepting federal grants. As the size of the federal debt attests. That’s how Revenue Sharing, the Nixonian panacea for the states’ fiscal ills, was accepted for so long-till the states wised up. Or just note the impressive size of the debt that college students amass by signing up for the federal government’s student loan programs. Many wind up being dunned for years. Before defaulting. At this rate, the student loan program could prove the next great federal program-like the housing-and-hedge-fund scam just a few years back-that sets off the next great recession. Will we ever learn?

At the end of all this division and disruption sown by Obamacare, if it ever does end, the latest estimate is that 30 million Americans will still not have health insurance-or about the same number as before Obama, Sebelius & Co. foisted this hustle on the American people, not to mention all the supporting actors in this farce. To name just one: Arkansas’ own Mark Pryor, who’s still a fan of this not so Affordable Care Act, and whose own Signature Accomplishment as this state’s attorney general years ago was to give payday lenders a new lease on their predatory life in Arkansas.

Bad ideas are everywhere in politics. Now it’s the Private Option that keeps coming back to the Arkansas House again and again. Maybe it’ll pass today. Or the day after. Or next week or next month. Till it does, the speaker seems determined to hold the members of the House hostage. (“We’re going to get this issue resolved, and there’s no question to that … this is serious business and this membership is going to take this seriously.”) Such language has a familiar ring, as in “I’m gonna make you an offer you can’t refuse.”

Surely there’s a case to be made for the Private Option, for by now it’s been made by every vested interest eyeing the funds it would provide-hospitals, insurers, the consulting industry, the bureaucracy that would administer it … you name it. Yet the House still hesitates to pass it. Every time Davy Carter issues another of his pronunciamentos, he succeeds mainly in antagonizing the more independent-minded members of that body, the kind that exercise their own judgment and don’t just take orders.

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