LITTLE ROCK – House Republican Leader Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-Hot Springs) today delivered the House Republican address to the people of Arkansas where he discussed the current debate over Medicaid expansion.
Here is the text of Rep. Westerman’s remarks (as prepared):
Hello. I am Rep. Bruce Westerman of Hot Springs, the House Republican Leader. Thank you for watching this week’s weekly Republican address to the people of Arkansas.
There has been much debate in the press of late about whether the State of Arkansas should expand its Medicaid enrollment per the terms of President Obama’s health care law.
In the recent Supreme Court ruling that allowed the president’s health care law to stand as a massive tax increase on hardworking Americans, the court also ruled that states will not be required to participate in the expansion of Medicaid enrollees.
This leaves state government with a question it must answer. Do we expand Medicaid or not?
Arkansas Republicans are working on this question on behalf of hardworking Arkansas taxpayers. Earlier this summer, we sent a letter to the administration outlining some of our concerns and offered recommendations. You can read our letter on our website. We have also had many conversations with stakeholders as to how to best proceed and reform the system.
Much of the opposition to President Obama’s health care law was because of the forced Medicaid expansion upon states. As the state’s now have protection from being forced to expand the program, our view is that supporting Medicaid expansion is really embracing President Obama’s law.
But the real question facing us is not who is embracing President Obama’s agenda. We all know which side has made the decisions and taken the votes to move the Obama agenda forward in Arkansas.
The real question is whether it is practically or philosophically in the best interest of Arkansas to increase people’s dependence on government services and programs? Wouldn’t a better approach to providing health care services be to unleash the Arkansas economy so working age adults could get good jobs and afford their own health care services while contributing to the tax system? Would this not allow better medical care for all involved, including the most vulnerable and needy who rely on Medicaid?
There are of course other questions that need to be addressed, including where is the money to expand Medicaid going to come from?
Does the federal government—which borrows 41 cents of every dollar it spends—have the $1 to $2 billion per year that will be required to fund Medicaid expansion in Arkansas alone?
Where will the billions come from?
The ultimate answer will be from increased taxes that will be required to pay off huge debts. Check your pay stub. Federal taxes are real dollars being taken out of our hurting economy at a real cost to Arkansans. There is no such thing as free money.
Medicaid already has built-in unfunded liabilities because of the increasing cost of healthcare that is not addressed in baseline budgeting. Expanding Medicaid at this time with so called “free money” really will be kicking the can down the road, creating even more problems in the future not only for Arkansas, but for the whole United States.
And in Arkansas, our Medicaid system has been running deficits for several years now. These deficits, averaging around $200 million per year, have been covered up by using President Obama’s one-time stimulus money. Additionally, the state Medicaid trust fund will soon be empty, leaving our state Medicaid system with a $400 million shortfall next year.
President Obama’s health care law says that, in three years, we will only have to pay 10% of that $1 to $2 billion. A tenth of a billion is still a lot of money, especially when it is added to current deficits and future unfunded liabilities in the system.
Governor Beebe has approval from the federal government to “opt out” of the Medicaid expansion program after three years. This means he can choose to embrace President Obama’s health care law today, add a quarter-of-a-million Arkansans to Medicaid and leave it to the next governor and a future legislature to decide whether to kick them out of the program or pay the tab.
As voters, you will have to decide whether we should maintain the status quo and expand the Medicaid system—adding to its deficit, or choose to fix it with bold reforms so it can be sustainable in the future for those who are truly in need. These are important questions that will need to be answered by the general assembly working as a co-equal branch of government—not a rubber stamp.
In recent days, the idea of a strong, co-equal legislative branch of government has been negatively characterized. The governor has couched the debate in terms of who would best work with him.
Again, we reiterate our message: This debate is not about Governor Beebe.
It is about the hardworking Arkansas taxpayers whom we serve. It is about who can best work for the people of arkansas. In our view, the people are best served when the members of the “people’s house” have the people, not the executive branch, at the top of our minds.
I invite you to learn more about the House Republican’s SIMPLE plan by visiting our website at www.ARHouse.org and keep up to date with us by following us on Twitter and Facebook.
Thank you for joining me today. God bless you, and God bless the Great State of Arkansas.
For more information on the Arkansas Republican House Caucus, please visit http://www.ARHouse.org and follow them on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ARHouseCaucus, and Facebook at http://facebook.com/ARHouseCaucus.