The constant refrain on Medicaid expansion from Republican legislators this poor-people-can-wait session has been that they need more time to study the issue. Well, all the necessary information is already available. Instead, Republicans have targeted pet issues, like restricting abortions and putting guns in churches, schools, and just about everywhere else. Even though a majority of Arkansans support expansion and groups have been actively asking their representatives to do so, Republicans have still not set a time to debate and vote.
The economics of Medicaid expansion simply make sense. If Medicaid expands, the state benefits. If it does not, the state will suffer. A non-partisan study shows that Medicaid expansion will boost the state GDP by $550 million annually and will create 6,200 new Arkansas jobs. Of course, jobs have not been the priority of the General Assembly.
Expansion will save the lives of 2,300 Arkansans every year. These are working people who just don’t make enough to get by. That is what this comes down to: will Arkansas be responsible and take care of its neediest citizens, or will we fail our moral duty? Saying no means that mothers, daughters, fathers, and sons will be missing this time next year. Saying yes provides 571,000 Arkansans with life-saving health insurance.
The federal debt will not be affected by any decision. The money has been allocated and will just go to other states if Arkansas rejects it. Even if it does not, saying no would be like taking one baby carrot out of a bag the size of the Stevens Building.
It makes political sense. Republicans in other states are supporting expansion. Governor Jan Brewer of Arizona is 100 percent behind the expansion, as are Governors Scott and Kasich. The Arkansas GOP stand proud with Republicans across the country.
This decision affects real people with real lives. Many need just a bit of government help to get by, and this expansion will give them that.