On Oct. 1, uninsured Americans can sign-up for health insurance on the private market. Unlike single-payer systems in Western Europe, the United States’ model is a free-market prototype once championed by the conservative Heritage Foundation. States can create health care exchanges to benefit their marketplaces and are allowed flexibility in using federal funding to expand Medicaid to those making under $30,675 for a family of four (133 percent of the federal poverty level).
Louisiana and Arkansas approached Obamacare’s states’ rights and private-sector opportunities differently. Gov. Bobby Jindal placed a stake in the ground declaring Louisiana would have no part of Obamacare, banking on the law’s failure.
Arkansas’ Republican Legislature initially opposed Obamacare. However, both parties struck a bipartisan compromise expected to pay dividends in health and economic outcomes.
So what did Arkansas do? Arkansas created a federal-state partnership exchange that will create jobs and expand private-sector opportunities. In many areas of Arkansas — and Louisiana — only one insurer offers coverage, resulting in no potential for free market competitive cost savings regarding premiums and cost of care. Now, Arkansans who seek insurance through an exchange will have at least two choices of insurers.
Second, Arkansas accepted the Medicaid money without growing state Medicaid rolls. They successfully appealed to the federal government to approve an innovative plan. New Medicaid recipients will receive assistance in purchasing private-sector health-care insurance that will follow them as their earning capacity increases.
By 2016, a Rand study shows that Arkansas will have 400,000 newly insured residents, a GDP increase of $550 million and 6,200 new jobs. Due to increased insurance coverage, the uncompensated care burden will no longer impose a hidden tax to consumers through higher rates and premiums. The system will eventually level out, reversing skyrocketing healthcare trends of the past decade. Fewer Arkansas families will suffer personal bankruptcy because of health-care costs, and expenses will become more reasonable as chronic diseases are better-managed. Small businesses and employers will enjoy a healthier, more productive workforce with less absenteeism. Cost savings to the state will offset costs associated with the expansion.
Gov. Jindal will forfeit billions of Louisiana taxpayers’ dollars to states like Arkansas to improve their workforces and make their businesses competitive, while 400,000 Louisianans eligible for the Medicaid expansion will be shut out of health care. His decision to deny 400,000 Louisianans health care is doubly harsh, as many will not be eligible for subsidies to buy health care through the federal exchange.
This fundamental denial of health care and the failure to take state action in building exchanges designed to benefit Louisiana’s economy is bad economics that will make our state less healthy and less competitive. Louisiana can and should do better.
Aprill Springfield Blanco