Meet Josh Miller. He’s a young Republican state legislator from Heber Springs, Arkansas. He took office in 2013. Miller also manages a rental property business. More than a decade ago, he was paralyzed when he broke his neck in a catastrophic car accident. Fortunately, Miller hasn’t been confined to an unproductive life because of his accident and subsequent paralysis.
More about Miller from the Arkansas Times:
Miller, 33, was on an alcohol-fueled drive with a friend about 11 years ago (he can’t remember who was driving) when their pickup plunged off a ravine near Choctaw. He was rescued, but suffered a broken neck and was paralyzed. Miller was uninsured. What young, fit man needs health insurance, he thought then. (He had some reason to know better. Not long before, he’d broken his hand in a fight and had to refuse the recommended surgery to fix the injuries properly because he was uninsured.)
Months of hospitalization and rehabilitation followed, including a long stretch in intensive care at St. Vincent Infirmary. There was a $1 million bill. Medicaid paid most of it. Miller was placed on disability and checks began. In time, between Medicaid and Medicare, all his health costs were covered by the federal government. For that reason, he need not be among the 82 Arkansas legislators (61 percent of the body) who enjoy heavily subsidized and comprehensive state employee health insurance.
According to the Arkansas Times, health insurance isn’t the only benefit Miller receives from the federal government. A Medicaid program also provides funding for his daily personal care assistance. Miller is able to enjoy a productive life as the manager of a rental property business and as a state legislator because of “his own grit”…and also because the government paid for his trauma care and continues to pays for his ongoing Medicare and Medicaid coverage and personal care assistant.
Yet, this man who owes his own well-being to being a recipient of Medicare and Medicaid benefits is opposed to the expansion of Medicaid coverage in his state of Arkansas. Just last week, Miller “orated against the private option Medicaid expansion. He even invoked FDR’s New Deal — a “hand up,” he said, not a “handout.”
Max Brantley of the Arkansas Times wonders how someone who has received—and continues to receive—so much public assistance could oppose health insurance for “the working poor.”
Miller sees it differently. He said some who qualify for the private option aren’t working hard enough. He claims many want health insurance just so they can get prescription drugs to abuse. He draws distinctions with government help for catastrophic occurrences such as he suffered. He falls back, too, on a developing defense from private option holdouts that they prefer an alternative that wouldn’t end coverage for the 100,000 people currently signed up, at least until next year. This is disingenuous. He and other opponents have made clear that they want to strip Obamacare from government root and branch. Here’s how Miller boiled his opposition down:
“My problem is two things,” Miller said. “One, we are giving it to able-bodied folks who can work … and two, how do we pay for it?”
Lucky for Josh Miller, such thinking didn’t prevail when Congress — over Republican opposition — created the programs that sustain him.
On Thursday evening, Miller was interviewed by Chris Hayes of MSNBC. During the interview, Miller “defended his opposition to Medicaid expansion in the face of his own significant benefit from the program.” Miller said that the government “can’t afford to cover more people.” Miller also claimed, once again, “that he and other opponents don’t want to take coverage away from people already signed up.”
Rep. Josh Miller (R-Heber Springs) talks Health Care in Arkansas with Chris Hayes on MSNBC
Brantley says that Miller’s claim that opponents of Medicaid expansion in Arkansas “don’t want to take away coverage from the 127,000 who’ve already been signed up” is inaccurate. Brantley adds that Miller KNOWS his claim is inaccurate—and that to “knowingly say something inaccurate is, well, a lie. “
David Ramsey (Arkansas Times) said that the opponents of the “private option do not believe there should be a publicly funded safety-net program providing health insurance for low-income Arkansans.” He added that they’re “putting enormous energy into ending the private option, which would take away coverage from 100,000 (and counting) people.” Ramsey noted that for some of the opponents politics is at the root of their opposition. He said there are others who “have sincerely held reasons for that belief.” They think the private option “is bad public policy.” Ramsey said, however, that the “outcome of their preferred policy — ending the private option — is precisely to kick 100,000 people off of the coverage they’ve gained this year through the private option, and to ensure that around 100,000 more eligible people never gain that coverage at all.” Ramsey said that it’s time for the opponents “to own that.”
According to Kris Giuliani (UPI), lawmakers in Arkansas “must re-approve funding for the expansion, with a 75 percent supermajority, to keep the program intact. Approval of the bill is still a few votes short, including Miller’s.”
A coldly rational person might say 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. I would not. No one should be pre-judged on a subjective merit test for health care. We are all God’s children — all residents of a country Republicans like to call exceptional, despite its lack of universal health care.
Apart from the core philosophical difference — Miller opposes an expansion of government expenditures; I don’t — Miller’s position seems to boil down to the belief that some needy people are more deserving than others.
~ Submitted by Elaine Magliaro
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Paralyzed GOP Lawmaker On Medicaid Opposes Medicaid Expansion (Talking Points Memo)