Last year I supported legislation in the Senate to make healthcare affordable, reliable, and accessible without breaking the bank. This legislation was passed by the House of Representatives last weekend and signed into law by the President. This new law will help up to 481,000 Arkansans obtain health care and provide up to 36,200 small businesses in Arkansas with tax credits to help with premiums while significantly reducing the deficit.
As with every major piece of legislation, this new law is not perfect. The package of amendments sent over from the House was intended to make improvements, and I support its tougher provisions to prevent Medicare fraud, close the Medicare prescription drug "donut hole," and end special deals such as the "Cornhusker Kickback." However, on balance, I believe the package falls short of the criteria of making health care more affordable, reliable, and accessible. I remain very concerned about provisions that would double Arkansas's cost of providing Medicaid to new enrollees, impose -- for the first time -- a payroll tax on unearned income, significantly increase fines for employers who may not be able to afford health coverage for their employees, and increase the cost of the legislation by $65 billion. It is because of these reasons that I cannot support this additional package.
Earlier this month, I had a broad understanding about the contents of the package. But as the saying goes, the devil is in the details. As more and more details of the package were released, I spent considerable time weighing the benefits and drawbacks to Arkansas. In the end, I believe this legislation is a step we don't need to take. I remain open and committed to improving health care for Arkansans, and will consider improvements to this law as implementation moves forward.