Private option water torture

By Steve Brawner
© 2016 by Steve Brawner Communications, Inc.

Voting for the private option was hard for many Arkansas Republican legislators, and every month – every dang month – it becomes harder to keep supporting it.

That’s because every month the number of Arkansans being served by the program continues to rise – past the 250,000 that was originally forecast, and now, as of the end of September, past 324,000 who are either enrolled or have been deemed eligible, or have been placed in traditional Medicaid because they were considered “medically frail.”

The private option is the health care program created by the Legislature in 2013 after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the Affordable Care Act – that’s Obamacare – was constitutional but that states were not required to expand government-run Medicaid to serve individuals with incomes up to 138 percent of the poverty level. Given the choice, most Republican-leaning states said no to a lot of federal dollars, but Arkansas said yes, with a twist: Instead of simply expanding Medicaid, it bought those folks private insurance.

Where your vote really counts this year

Hand with ballot and boxBy Steve Brawner
© 2016 by Steve Brawner Communications, Inc.

This year’s big races in Arkansas were decided long ago, when incumbents decided to run for re-election and when candidates decided which letter – “R,” “D” or something else – would be beside their name. Statewide, the “Rs” have it.

So even though you’re probably focusing most of your attention on the presidential race, your votes will count the most in local races and in the five ballot initiatives remaining on the ballot.

Those initiatives are where America stops being a republic governed by elected leaders and instead becomes a direct democracy – where you, Mr. and Mrs. Responsible Citizen, decide the law of the land.

Tax cuts: some legislators cautious, others enthusiastic

By Steve Brawner
© 2016 by Steve Brawner Communications, Inc.

The easiest things for lawmakers to do politically are to cut taxes and increase spending, but there comes a point where the math stops working (except in Washington, D.C, where they can just pretend). Some state legislators are wondering if we’re reaching that point.

The reason they are wondering is because state revenues have not met the Department of Finance and Administration’s forecast each of the past three months. In fact, they’re $36.1 million less than expected and about the same as the state collected this time last year.

Meanwhile, the state is facing increasing costs that are hard to contain. Spending on K-12 public schools must increase every year or the state probably will be sued. Meanwhile, health care costs are rising – in particular, the so-called private option, where the state uses federal Medicaid dollars to purchase health insurance for lower-income Arkansans. When the program was created, it was expected to cover 250,000 individuals, but the numbers have zoomed past that, and next year the state begins paying 5 percent of the cost.

State Republican leaders stumped by Trump

By Steve Brawner
© 2016 by Steve Brawner Communications, Inc.

I tried to write about something besides the presidential campaign, and just can’t. I apologize. I’ve covered other things this past week but can’t look away from this train wreck, even when I want to.

Arkansas’ top Republican elected officials probably feel the same way.

After Donald Trump’s 2005 recordings were made public, a number of them made their strongest statements yet against the candidate whom none of them wanted to be the nominee. But so far, they have not joined others across the country who withdrew their support, including both senators from the states of Alaska, Nebraska and Arizona, including Sen. John McCain. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan has all but disowned Trump.