Group submits name, title of proposed referendum on health care expansion


LITTLE ROCK — A group opposed to Arkansas’ alternative to expanding Medicaid under the federal Affordable Care Act submitted paperwork with the state attorney general’s office Wednesday to put a referendum on the measure on the 2014 general election ballot.

Arkansans Against Big Government filed organization papers as a ballot question committee with the state Ethics Commission on Tuesday, the same day Gov. Mike Beebe signed into law legislation for the state plan to use Medicaid funding to subsidize private health insurance for thousands of low-income Arkansans.

On Wednesday, the group submitted a proposed name and ballot title for a statewide referendum on implementing Act 1498, the Health Care Independence Act of 2013, enabling legislation for the plan that supporters dubbed the “private option.”

The group’s chairman, former Republican 4th District congressional candidate Glenn Gallas of Hot Springs, said a statewide coalition would gather signatures to put the measure on the ballot.

“What I’m trying to encourage is that the citizens have the opportunity to vote on this measure. People have been opposed to Medicaid expansion, no matter what you call it,” said Gallas, who owns a plumbing and electrical company and provides conservative political commentary on a Little Rock radio station.

He said was disappointed that the Legislature, controlled by Republicans for the first time in nearly 140 years, started this year’s legislative session aiming to overhaul the existing Medicaid program to root out waste, fraud and abuse, and ended up approving what he called the biggest expansion of government in Arkansas history.

“What we have is an explosion in the size and scope of Medicaid, expanding it to over 200,000 new participants. This large expansion of government growth is going to hurt individuals, it’s going to hurt the quality of health care,” Gallas said. “The people need to vote on what is no doubt the most important issue of our time.”

Republican legislative leaders said during the session that the private option is not an expansion of state government and that instead it will shrink the state Medicaid rolls by about 35 percent as some people now on Medicaid become eligible for subsidies to buy private insurance through a state health insurance exchange.

Gallas said his group would oversee a strictly volunteer canvassing effort to gather the approximately 46,000 signatures of registered voters needed to qualify the measure for the 2014 general election ballot.

Signature gathering cannot begin unless Attorney General Dustin McDaniel’s office certifies the proposed referendum’s name and ballot title.