Health

Rep. Josh Miller of Arkansas Opposes Medicaid Expansion Despite Being Saved by Medicaid

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Arkansas earned some distinction with its approach to the unpopularity of expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act and using federal money for that purpose to help its citizens. Rather than expanding the program, Arkansans have the option to use that money to purchase private insurance. However, GOP lawmakers in the state are opposed to this measure and are working to reform the practice.

In a column in the Arkansas Times, Max Brantley highlights Rep. Josh Mille,r who opposes the measure,but has benefitted personally from the Medicaid program. In 1997, he was in an automobile accident involving alcohol that left him paralyzed. Uninsured at the time, his ultimately $1 million healthcare bill was “mostly” picked up by the government, and he was on disability for a time. Brantley uses Miller’s case as evidence that the motivation of the Arkansas GOP is only against this because it wants to undermine the Democratic president’s signature policy.

Brantley takes it a step further, saying that Miller believes “some who qualify for the private option aren’t working hard enough.” He says that someone (not him) who is “coldly rational” would look at this debate and believe “a cook in a fast-food restaurant, working long hours at low pay to feed a family, looks more deserving than an uninsured person injured on a drunken joy ride.”

In a telephone interview with Opposing Views, Miller denied that was ever his position. “I can’t speak for every other legislator in Arkansas,” he said. “I opposed it from the beginning, but not because I feel like anyone is unworthy.” Miller does not seem to be a politician caught up in partisan fervor or with any sort of larger, national ambitions. Instead, he seems genuinely concerned about the future of Arkansas and America, with respect to debt.

In his comments from the floor of the Arkansas House, Miller speaks about the danger of entering into an agreement with “a financing agent who is trillions of dollars in debt.” He reasserted that belief, saying that he doesn’t oppose expanding healthcare, but has “uncertainty about [Arizona’s] ability to pick up the tab” after three years when Arkansas would have to pay for a larger share of the program.

Denying anything involving politics, he asserted, “I am [opposing the private option] for fear of traditional Medicaid, to prevent it from taking further cuts.” Of his own experiences through his recovery and rehabilitation, he said that the current system “has been in need of improvements.” He worries that when the bill comes due, Arkansans will be forced to take one of three actions. People would have to be removed from the program that they signed up for “in good faith,” as a way to cut costs. Alternatively, the only other options are to raise taxes or cut other existing services.

In an interview Thursday on Chris Hayes’ MSNBC show, Miller said that he wasn’t pushing for the removal of people already in the program, but merely hoping to “slow down enrollment.” He suggested that during the next legislative session in 2015, they could figure out a way to pay for the Medicaid expansion for years to come.

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