Let's Avoid Snatching Defeat From Victory (Editorial)

Gov. Mike Beebe has persuaded the federal government to give Arkansas a unique chance to ensure that its poorest citizens have insurance while not expanding Medicaid.

Forget for a moment that the adjective “unique” shouldn’t carry a modifying adverb and bear with me: How unique is this chance? So unique that Republican legislators are giving signs of support for the efforts of our Democratic governor.

As the daily newspaper noted: The decision by Health & Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius “is the first publicly announced expansion deal in the nation that would allow all of those earning up to 138 percent of poverty to buy private insurance with Medicaid dollars on the exchange.”

The deal accommodates those (almost entirely Democrats) who support Obamacare’s expansion of Medicaid to a quarter of a million poor Arkansans, while employing a strategy that has been supported mostly by Republicans: having these Arkansans buy private insurance on the state’s insurance exchange.

It’s a plan that could benefit both insurance companies and providers — reimbursements from private insurance carriers tend to be higher than Medicaid — as well as eliminating the load of an extra 250,000 citizens on Arkansas’ Medicaid program.

It even helps quiet the GOP opposition to an exchange operated jointly by the feds and the state, an element Beebe calls essential to maintaining support for the deal.

But not all is rainbows and unicorns. Some Republicans hold that the deal still represents an expansion of government, even though it’s an expansion that not only helps the poor; it also provides private insurers a vast new market.

Please, lawmakers, this is a good deal. Let’s accept it while the state, its citizens and the private sector are ahead.