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A Look At The Hendren-Ballinger Amendment

Updated: Apr 13

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Rep. Ballinger and Senator Hendren explain their proposal. (Photo credit: Danny Johnston, AP)


The “private” option funding failed to pass the House again yesterday afternoon. To exaggerate only slightly, Speaker Davy Carter has vowed to keep on re-voting the bill until the House gets it right. Is there any way out?

Perhaps so. Yesterday at noon, roughly 20 legislators coalesced in the Capitol’s Old Supreme Court Room to supply a compromise alternative to the “private” option funding bill. (See video of the press conference here.) It’s been said that a good compromise leaves everyone unhappy. This compromise will probably qualify. In a nutshell, here’s what it does:

  1. It will end open enrollment for the “private” option on  June 30, 2014.

  2. It will extend funding until March 1, 2015 – that is, the compromise will not fund the PO for the entire next fiscal year.

  3. It will require waiver approval from the federal government for these terms. If the federal government doesn’t approve the waiver, the entire program ends.

Here are some interesting aspects to this compromise that may not be immediately apparent:

  1. If passed, this would force the General Assembly to continue to consider the PO and to make a policy choice next session.

  2. It would also force legislative candidates on the ballot to discuss what they want to do with PO during campaign season.

  3. Its “trigger” would force the federal administrators of Obamacare to make a painful choice. Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion allows state taxpayers “free” Medicaid expansion for three years, but then forces those taxpayers to pick up a larger and larger share of the tab. The Hendren-Ballinger plan places a cap on the pool of enrollees. Would the federal government really allow this, given that it will encourage other states to demand the same deal? Would the federal government really reject this, given its evident desire to close the deal on just about any expansion that any state offers it?

  4. Representative Bell’s proposal, which appears to have been a failed attempt to offer a little something to fiscal conservatives and get over the hump of the required 75 votes, included an attempt to cap enrollment by defunding certain kinds of taxpayer-funded advertising. It was always unclear whether Bell’s attempt to put the brakes on enrollment would actually work. However, ending open enrollment after June 30 would definitely lead to a decline in enrollments.

Of course, the most interesting aspect of this compromise is that it would preserve the “private” option until March of next year. However, we are willing to give some weight to the argument that there is a determined majority of legislators who want to fund the PO. Unless you have the majority of the votes, it will always be difficult to get everything you want.

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