Private Option Supporters Walk Fine Line (AP Analysis)

by Andrew DeMillo, The Associated Press  on Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014 8:54 am  

Arkansas Sen. Missy Irvin, R-Mountain Home, says she won't vote to renew to the private option.

Beebe's optimism partly reflects the belief among private option supporters that cutting tens of thousands from the insurance program will be a tougher choice for lawmakers than the abstract debate over the private option and the health care law in general.

The stepped-up lobbying effort includes advocates highlighting personal stories of those who would lose coverage under the defunding plan and the state Chamber of Commerce warning about the tax increase businesses could face if the program is discontinued.

Even more telling than those efforts may be the warning from state officials to lawmakers who questioned whether the federal government would allow Arkansas to end the program. State Medicaid Director Andy Allison told lawmakers the federal government couldn't penalize the state for discontinuing the program.

"Essentially when this Legislature decides it want to defund the private option, the primary concern isn't with (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) and the federal government," Allison said. "It's the impact and how quickly you want to actually remove that coverage from individuals who are covered and change the system here."

In other words, how to end the private option isn't as difficult a question as what to do if it's gone.

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