Monday, February 16, 2015

It is Better to Know Nothing at all About State Government than to Know Only What Steve Barnes Tells You

“The man who reads nothing at all is better educated than the man who reads nothing but newspapers.” 
― Thomas Jefferson

“I predict future happiness for Americans, if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.” 
― Thomas Jefferson

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Thomas Jefferson reasoned that a person who reads nothing at all at least does not have a head full of misinformation which would have to be swept away before the actual facts of some matter were learned, but a person who read only the newspapers would first have to be disabused of all of the errors and mis-education which they had acquired via reading the newspapers.  After reading the recent Steve Barnes column "Arkansas to end Alternative Obamacare Program for the Poor" I know what ole' Tommy Jeff meant. I don't have time to break down all of Barnes' inaccuracies, so I will just deconstruct the first two paragraphs for you, just to give you a taste of how bad it is.
Barnes writes: "Governor Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas has signed legislation that will end by 2017 the state’s innovative but controversial adaptation of the Affordable Care Act, which has provided nearly 190,000 residents with health coverage."
Well, Asa Hutchinson is serving as Governor, so there is some fact in there.  But the "state's innovative but controversial adaptation" of Obamacare was already slated to end by 2017.  The state was granted a temporary waiver to build this facade in front of Medicaid Expansion to give it the look and feel of private insurance.  The temporary waiver expires at the end of 2016 and the bill does not change that. So the bill, SB 96, does not tear down this facade any earlier than it would come down anyway.  

What the bill does is say that if the state cannot agree on how to build a new facade in front of the state's Medicaid Expansion, then the underlying Medicaid expansion goes away as well. Some legislators are beating their chests saying that the vote for SB 96 is a vote for "ending Medicaid expansion" but a more holistic look at the bill paints a different picture. While it does establish a possible end-date for Medicaid Expansion eventually, it does so only after doing everything possible to build political momentum to a new facade so that Medicaid Expansion will be retained. More details on what SB 96 really does here.

When Barnes writes that the Affordable Care Act "has provided nearly 190,000 residents with health coverage" he at least gets part of the story right.  The act itself did not provide the coverage though, rather the act authorized spending money that the government did not and does not have to pay for the coverage.  The money was borrowed from the next generation, so it may be more complete to say that the Act authorized the confiscation of the future earnings of todays babies and children in order to pay for the health care of able-bodied adults today.  

His phrasing, while typical of today's media, seems to ascribe God-like powers to a piece of legislation to actually provide things. Instead it merely did what all legislation does- describe who gets goodies and who has to pay for it. The next generation is who should get the credit for providing health care coverage to today's able-bodied adults.  The Affordable Care Act, via the "private" option, is just the means by which those kids are being robbed to pay for the coverage. 

That leads into his next paragraph, which continues to erroneously describe the Affordable Care Act itself as magically providing the money for the healthcare.....
Arkansas' "private option" plan uses federal funds from the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, to purchase medical insurance for some low-income individuals, rather than assigning them to the state's Medicaid program.
Not only that, he implies that Arkansans who sign up for the "private" option are not a part of the state's Medicaid program.  In doing so he repeats the falsehood of those legislators who insisted that the "private" option was not Medicaid expansion.  The so-called "private" option is a Medicaid program, just one which has a couple of waivers from the traditional Medicaid program.  It is like when Blue Cross offered HSA insurance in addition to their traditional product.  Customers who signed up were still with Blue Cross, just a different program.  

In the same way people who sign up for the "private" option are still on Medicaid, just a different Medicaid plan that the traditional one.  The new plan has a facade built in front of it to make it look and feel like private insurance, even though its Medicaid money (ironically, Arkansas Blue Cross is one of those companies forming the facade, and getting a cut in the process) Because Barnes seems unwilling to admit that the "private" option is really just the Medicaid Expansion called for under Obamacare dressed in a hat and sunglasses he has to write like these are two different things.  

It is no wonder Arkansans are picking the kind of people they have for public office, if this is the kind of mis-information and mis-education they are getting from the state media. (For a more humorous look at my views on Arkansas newspapers click here) We are not going to get better government until we either get a better media, or quit listening to the one mis-informing us.

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