Insurance policies sold through the Arkansas Health Insurance Marketplace are projected to see a net aggregate decrease of 2 percent in premium costs for 2015, Gov. Mike Beebe's office announced Tuesday. Beebe's office said the projection includes policies offered through the so-called private option, which uses federal Medicaid money to subsidize private health insurance for Arkansans earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. Premiums under the private option are projected to decrease slightly but remain essentially flat.
Rep. Tom Cotton (R), his party's U.S. Senate hopeful in Arkansas, has been a fierce critic of the Affordable Care Act, vowing to destroy the system if given an opportunity. The far-right congressman even went so far as to argue that some Arkansans, because of "Obamacare," could "face triple-digit increases in the cost of their health care premiums."
As of yesterday, that's not quite what happened. The Arkansas News Bureau reported:
For much of the recent debate about health care policy, the argument about premiums has been based on two sets of expectations. ACA detractors predicted premiums would "skyrocket," while ACA proponents suggested modest increases, consistent with trends that existed before the Affordable Care Act became law.
But for the second time in as many weeks -- Connecticut last week and Arkansas yesterday -- we're actually seeing some projections of modest premium decreases. Obviously, Cotton's rhetoric about "triple-digit increases" looks pretty silly now.
Is it any wonder the political debate, especially in Arkansas, has gone so topsy turvy?
As we discussed just last week, it was widely assumed that Arkansas' very competitive U.S. Senate race would feature a far-right congressman demanding the repeal of "Obamacare" against a centrist Democrat who avoided the subject.
What we have instead is a Democrat who's started to boast about the health care benefits he's delivered for his Arkansas constituents, and a Republican congressman who's conceded there's "no doubt" the ACA has helped people.
For what it's worth, if Cotton and his allies succeeded in destroying the entirety of the Affordable Care Act, one recent report found that Arkansans could expect to see premium increases of over 300%.
The challenge for Cotton in the coming months is defending his increasingly untenable position on health care policy.