Paralyzed GOP Lawmaker On Medicaid Opposes Medicaid Expansion

February 28, 2014 10:11 a.m.

More than a decade ago, Arkansas Rep. Josh Miller (R) was in a catastrophic car accident that broke his neck and left him paralyzed. Medicare and Medicaid paid the $1 million bill for his hospitalization and rehabilitation.

But this week, as the Arkansas legislature has debated continuing its privatized Medicaid expansion under Obamacare, Miller has remained steadfast in his opposition.

The Arkansas Times highlighted the contrast in a Thursday report. The alternative newspaper reported that Miller receives ongoing coverage through the government programs, including Medicaid-covered personal care assistance.

The Times asked Miller, 33, about this apparent contradiction: Shouldn’t someone who has experienced the benefits of health insurance, including insurance paid for by the government, understand the importance of expanding those benefits to others?

The difference, he said, is that some of the 100,000 people who have gained coverage through Arkansas’s Medicaid expansion don’t work hard enough or just want access to the program so they can purchase and abuse prescription drugs.

“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?”

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The accident that paralyzed Miller occurred about 11 years ago, the Times reported. He was driving with a friend, alcohol was involved, but Miller said he couldn’t remember who was driving. When he arrived at the hospital with his life-changing injuries, he was uninsured.

Miller, who manages a rental property office, took office as a state legislator in 2013.

As TPM has reported, the Arkansas legislature must re-approve funding for Medicaid expansion with a 75-percent supermajority to keep the program going. The funding bill remains a few votes short, including Miller’s, in the 100-member House.

Miller, who voted against expansion last year, said he and the other opponents were concerned about the long-term costs in the state but were open to a compromise that would allow those already covered by the expansion to keep their coverage.

In an interview with MSNBC’s Chris Hayes Thursday, he said he was worried about traditional Medicaid being cut to pay for the Medicaid expansion when the state has to start picking up a small share of the tab in 2017.

“Without those programs, I know I wouldn’t be here, and that’s one of the reasons I’ve dedicated my life to public service,” Miller said. “But the Medicaid program that was there for me, the traditional Medicaid program, is not what’s being debated here.”

(Photo credit: Kate Suzanne Photography)

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