I attended the health care forum in Searcy last night. It was a discussion between incumbent state rep. Mark Biviano & his challenger, Kyle Osborne, who currently serves as Searcy police chief.
Here’s what I learned:
1. Kyle Osborne is opposed to Obamacare…kind of. His direct quote:
“I’m not for Obamacare…but we have to do something to fix health care.”
Throughout the rest of the debate, he continued to say we should do something, but it should not be until the Supreme Court rules on Obamacare’s constitutionality, and he failed to specify what ideas he has to fix the problems. In fact, he offered this gem later in the discussion:
“As a Democrat, I do not have all of the ideas.”
That is a direct quote. He also said ‘we shouldn’t have the White House telling us how to do it.’
Later on, Osborne said he was ‘opposed to the way Obamacare is now,’ but added ‘it’s not a bad idea.’
When asked what parts of Obamacare should be preserved, Osborne cited the preexisting conditions & provisions that allow adults to stay on their parents’ insurance until age 26.
Osborne stopped just short of saying he thinks the law is unconstitutional, but did say he thinks it will be ruled that way by the Supreme Court.
Where does Osborne stand on Obamacare, you ask? I have no idea. But I cannot wait to hear what Osborne’s golf buddy, Governor Beebe, has to say about these developments.
2. Rep. Biviano opposes Obamacare fully, says it is unconstitutional, and should be scrapped.
As for pre-existing conditions provisions, Biviano said this policy is already adding to the cost of premiums for consumers.
When asked what effect Obamacare will have on the state, Biviano cited Arkansas’ doctor shortage and predicted that Obamacare would add 400,000 patients to the Medcaid rolls, a program that is already on life support. He also predicted health care rationing in the state if the program is fully implemented here.
(Osborne said we should wait and see how the Supreme Court rules before he answers this question)
When asked for alternative solutions to Obamacare, Biviano said he has traveled the world working in the health care industry and the only real solutions he has seen have been private and market-driven.
Biviano also said that 80% of employers may opt-out of health care plans for their employees if Obamacare remains intact.
3. Osborne thinks services may have to be cut to save Medicaid.
“No one wants to say that services will be cut, but that’s an option that’s on the table.”
(Direct quote, can be read here.) He concluded his recommendations on saving Medicaid with,
4. Biviano says we can avoid cutting services/raising taxes if we deal with shortfalls Medicaid now.
Biviano reiterated that Republicans tried to apply this year’s surplus to fill the void in Medicaid, but the Governor blocked the effort.
Here are some of the other questions that were asked & the candidates’ responses:
Q: If you are elected and Obamacare is struck down, how will you work to fix health care in Arkansas?
Biviano: “I will continue to work to block the implementation of exchanges in our state. Did you know you cannot buy health insurance from another state? You should be able to buy health plans online.”
Osborne: “If elected, I will meet with anyone who has ideas. As a Democrat, I do not have all the ideas.”
Q: Do you think we should crack down harder on Medicaid fraud?
Osborne: “We have to stop fraud, and to do that we’re going to have to hire a lot more prosecutors & judges.”
Biviano: “Before we can hire more prosecutors & judges, we have to identify the problem. I was proud to help craft the Westerman plan to rein in fraud.”
Q: Has Obama’s accommodation on mandated birth control coverage solved the problem?
Biviano: “No, this is about freedom. We shouldn’t be mandating this.”
Osborne: “No, it hasn’t fixed the problem.”
Q: Should we have federal or state health care exchanges?
Biviano: “The Democrats want to make a distinction between state & federal exchanges but you cannot do it. The federal government will have its hands all in it. We cannot afford a state exchange under federal guidelines.”
Osborne: “I was under the impression that we had the opportunity to opt-out of some federal guidelines.”
Q: Some say Obamacare is a symbol of the end of limited government. Do you think government has gotten too big?
Osborne: “Obamacare, that’s an example of how they’ve gotten too big. But I can’t answer the rest of that question until the Supreme Court rules.”
Q: Is Obamacare going to make it more difficult for insurance companies to provide coverage?
Biviano: “Yes, they’re going to pass their additional costs on to consumers.”
Osborne: “I was an insurance agent 35 years ago.”
Q: The independent advisory board morally appropriate?
Biviano: “No, it goes against the democratic principles that this country was founded on.”
Osborne: “We are treading new ground with Obamacare. No one knows what to expect.” (he then asked if the board is at the federal or state level)
From my perspective, the contrast was pretty clear between the two candidates. Despite the fact that Mr. Osborne agreed with Mr. Biviano on almost every point, Biviano’s knowledge of the health care industry and health care policy was clearly evident, while frankly Osborne just rambled through most of the discussion. By my count, he did not offer a single policy recommendation, substantive or otherwise.
Now, remind me: which party is the one that wants to cut services? Which party is it that doesn’t have solutions, but just talking points, just wanting to throw ‘granny off a cliff?’ It’s not the Republican party, and that was fully evident last night.