The Government Accountability Office (GAO) says that the State of Arkansas and the federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) violated federal guidelines when they agreed to expand Medicaid under a “private option” plan.
Arkansas was one of the first states to get permission from the Obama administration to expand Medicaid, but on different terms than laid out in ObamaCare.
Medicaid is the state-federal program that pays for health care services for the nation’s poor and disabled.
Under normal circumstances, Arkansas would only be allowed to get a waiver from ObamaCare’s expansion structure if it could prove that its plan would be budget neutral.
Guess what happened instead.
“According to federal regulations, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has certain procedures they must follow when reviewing state requests for Medicaid waivers,” write experts at the Foundation for Government Accountability.
“One key component of any waiver is budget neutrality: states seeking waivers must demonstrate that they will not spend any more federal dollars under the waiver than they would have without the waiver. But as it turns out, the Obama Administration cut corners and ‘did not ensure budget neutrality’ requirements were actually met before approving Arkansas’ ObamaCare expansion.”
The result is an additional $778 million more in spending on Arkansas’ version of Medicaid expansion than would have occurred had HHS insisted on following its own budget neutrality rules.
The entire analysis of the GAO’s report is worth reading since it explains other serious problems with the Arkansas plan. Perhaps the most egregious is the depth at which the Democratic governor’s office and loyal state agencies went to mislead Republican state legislators on the true cost of the expansion. Evidence of bad faith negotiations like this make it impossible to have a substantive policy conversation. Even now there are reports that the governor is peddling incorrect information, and trying to silence opposition.
What’s emerging from the Arkansas fiasco is the extent to which supporters of bigger government will go to entrench their policies – truth, fairness and accountability be damned.