What’s Up with Arkansas?!?

Milwaukee       No matter what P.T. Barnum once said, sometimes bad press is really bad press, even when they spell your name right, and that’s what seems to be happening in Arkansas now, thanks to the boneheaded right wing in the legislature and in Republican bureaucracy that is trying to punish the poor and lower income families.

The Economist is not what you could every confuse with a fake news, liberal, lefty rag.  It’s conservative, if not libertarian, on all manner of issues.  Nonetheless, there it was with both an editorial and a lead article slamming what it called “the Arkansas experiment” at denying Medicaid benefits to poor families because of onerous and inept reporting requirements for so-called “community engagement,” meaning work, volunteering or whatever.  The state was given the first such waiver in the country to allow it to essentially deny health benefits to the poor.  I’m already embarrassed for Arkansas, even as I write this much, but it gets much worse.  The Kaiser Foundation estimates that if all fifteen, largely Republican states that applied in me-too fashion to follow Arkansas were granted such waivers, it would push between 1.4 million and 4 million people off of coverage.

As The Economist reports in devastating fashion,

“The preliminary results from the Arkansas experiment look alarming:  18,000 people lost their health insurance in the first six months because they did not comply….Confusion seems widespread.  Many only realize they have lost insurance in the pharmacy, after trying to pick up a prescription they can no longer afford.  In some months more than 90% of those required to report their activities did not.  For the first few months reporting could only be done online.  More than 20% of those affected did not have access to the internet:  those that did found the website, which shuts down between 9pm and 7am, clunky and complicated.”

How can anyone from DHHS nationally down to Governor Hutchinson in Arkansas claim this is about “responsibility,” when their implementation is so completely irresponsible?

From there the Arkansas story becomes even more despicable.  The state has no way to count and isn’t much interested in doing so.  It’s own incompetence at determining where the reporting responsibility has failed or whether jobs changed, were lost or found is covered up by their own failure and whitewashed by Washington.  Hutchinson was left telling The Economist that he was sure one of the 18,000 “out there is healthy, has received a notice, understands the responsibility but just doesn’t do it.  And what do you do at that point? He asks.”  Wow!  I guess, Governor, you deny 17,999 in order to punish that one scofflaw bastard.  The ignorance and bias of his statement takes my breath away!

Oh, and then there’s the legislative fight to undue the will of the people in voting to raise the state minimum wage from $8.50 to $11 over coming years.  An Arkansas state house panel advanced legislation that would exempt “small businesses, some non-profits and teenagers” from a minimum wage hike approved by voters last November . On this one, Governor Asa Hutchinson and the state’s Republican party came out against the move. “I think the public has spoken on it and I think we need to abide by that,” Hutchinson said to the Associated Press.

Governor are you sure?  There might be one joker out there who will get the new minimum wage who you don’t think deserves it.  Don’t you want to punish everyone in the whole state of Arkansas in order to make them work harder because of that one guy?

Arkansas is going to have change its motto from the Wonder State to the WTF State soon.

Please enjoy Renée Wahl and The Sworn Secrets’ To the Bone.

Thanks to KABF.

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Democracy is Getting in the Way of Legislatures around the Country

Angry protesters

New Orleans  The Freedom House in its annual ranking of democratic practice pushed the United States down the list again this year.  Pundits argue that this is a direct result of life under the autocratic whims of President Trump.  Sadly, that would be a simpler problem to solve with a fixed date in 2020 to take care of the job, but a greater problem has to be closer to the root than that branch of government and can be found in the states where recalcitrant legislatures are refusing to abide by the will of the people.

Of course, for years we have been contending, albeit poorly, with the restrictions on voter access in state after state under Republican control.  After the midterms we saw legislatures in Wisconsin and Michigan try to follow the playbook of their buddies in North Carolina by taking away some of the traditional powers of newly elected Democratic governors.  Normally, I would have thought it was harder to do that on an issue, as opposed to an individual politician, because the peoples’ will is expressed so clearly in the votes on such initiative ballots.

In Arkansas, where voters overwhelming approved an increase in the state’s minimum wage that will see $11 per hour in the future, we now have a Republican legislator pushing forward a bill that would take the minimum wage back to $7.25, create a sub-minimum for teens, and probably bring back bonded labor, but I haven’t read the full bill.  He may have overreached so vastly that he tripped himself up.

More than 53% of the voters in Utah approved expansion of Medicaid for people up to 138% of poverty about $16,750 a year for an individual to cover 150,000 people.  In Idaho 60% of voters approved an expansion of Medicaid.  Legislators in both states are now trying to undo the voters’ will and either cap the expansion differently, add barriers, or make the entitlement contingent on state resources like sales taxes.

Reportedly a bill is being rushed through the Utah legislature that would limit the expansion to the poverty level rather than the 138% figure that adds more lower waged working families.  Their plan would knock an estimated 60,000 in the state from the coverage.  In fact, they want to add a work requirement on top of that as well, both in Utah and Idaho.  All of the bad news from Arkansas is that a stringent work requirement is super successful at knocking thousands off of Medicaid.  These western legislatures may not have read the fine print on all of the litigation in Arkansas challenging this clawback.

Washington and Trump’s Center for Medical Services have to give waivers to allow these shenanigans to take effect.  All of the pols claim they are getting good vibes from Washington, but we can hope this is fake news.  Arkansas comes up again like a bad penny in these stories since the state also has a request to be able to cut back the ACA expansion to the poverty line as well. There is nothing about the Affordable Care Act that defines the expansion as only a measure to benefit people at the poverty line.  The heart of the reform is the additional coverage past that line.  If anything, we need to expand the definition of poverty, not push people farther back into poverty.

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