The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

GOP Senate candidate admits Obamacare helped a few people

The other day, Gallup released a major new survey finding that the steepest drops in uninsured rates had occurred in two states that could decide control of the Senate — Arkansas and Kentucky. The sharpest drop in the nation was in Arkansas, where the uninsured rate was practically cut in half.

Dem Senator Mark Pryor is greeting this development as good news, and — get this — is even noting that he voted for the policy that has helped make this happen.

His Republican challenger, meanwhile, is declining to address this development directly.

The day after the Gallup survey appeared, GOP Rep. Tom Cotton — who favors repeal — was asked to respond to it. He claimed he hadn’t seen the poll, but he did allow that some people might have benefited from the law, before launching into a familiar litany of attacks on it.

Cotton’s answer came at the 1:40 mark in video of an exchange with reporters that was posted by the Magnolia Reporter:

“I haven’t seen that poll. But the thing about Obamacare is, it no doubt helped some people. But think about all the people it hurt and the ways it hurt them. It caused people to have insurance cancelled. It drove up the cost of their health insurance premiums or it cost them access to their doctor or imposed new taxes it caused them to lose their job or have their hours cut…we should repeal Obamacare and start over.”

So, yeah, the law might have helped somebody, somewhere, but it’s destroyed many more people. Yet the data make it hard to argue that the problem of cancellations, at least, outweighs the benefit of new enrollees. After all, the Gallup poll found that the rate of uninsured in Arkansas dropped from 22.5 percent in 2013 to 12.4 now.

What’s more, today we learned that thanks to the Arkansas version of the Medicaid expansion, nearly 200,000 people gained health coverage, which is no doubt partly responsible for the steep drop in the uninsured rate. So it’s worth reiterating once again that while Cotton continues to call for repeal of Obamacare, he won’t take a position on the direct question of whether the state’s Medicaid expansion should be going forward.

By the way, new federal data shows that the Medicaid expansion has given coverage to seven million people nationally.

In a statement, Pryor spokesman Erik Dorey responded to Cotton — and the Gallup survey and new Medicaid news — this way:

“While he’s always said the law isn’t perfect, the fact is nearly 200,000 Arkansans now know the comfort and security of quality health care, thanks to a policy Senator Pryor supported and was successfully implemented in Arkansas. Congressman Cotton’s irresponsible rhetoric now has to come to grips with the reality that what he’s proposing would take away economic security from one in 10 Arkansans.”

It’s good to see an embattled red state Democrat who is willing to greet this drop in the uninsured as a policy success. That wasn’t supposed to happen, was it?