Our View: Governor, task force on same page in regard to health care reform

It comes as no big surprise to learn Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s hand-picked Health Reform Legislative Task Force wholeheartedly supported his vision for Medicaid expansion in Arkansas. While even the staunchest opponent of Arkansas’ Private Option, the state’s version of Obamacare, realized that canning the entire program would be impossible, not to mention kicking well over 200,000 so-called “poor” Arkansans off any sort of subsidized health care program, would sure to result in a major health care crisis. While there were many vocal Republican opponents to the state’s Private Option there was never any realistic alternative presented until now, which left incoming Gov. Hutchinson the challenge of coming up with a new model. Those features within this model would include encouraging employer-based insurance, referring unemployed, able-bodied beneficiaries to work training, requiring people with incomes of 100 to 138 percent of the federal poverty level to pay premiums, eliminating 90-day retroactive coverage for new enrollees and having a wind-down plan with 30-day notice if the federal government’s match rate changes. Hutchinson also said he wants to “start the debate” on whether the state could impose an assets test and a lifetime cap on length of coverage, action that would certainly require federal approval. Let’s make it easy to comprehend by pointing out Arkansas has shelled out about $1.9 BILLION since this Private Option program started in 2014, which went to provide free or subsidized health insurance coverage to about 250,000 Arkansans. And yes, there are still thousands more Arkansans awaiting approval to jump on board this gravy train. Now then let us make it very clear, the federal government currently is paying 100 percent of the cost of Medicaid expansion, but in 2017 states such as Arkansas, will begin paying a share of the cost that will gradually increase to 10 percent by 2020. Hutchinson told his task force he is only willing to continue with Medicaid expansion if the federal government approves his plan. And if the state can achieve savings across the entire Medicaid system equal to its share of the cost of expansion. That means the state must find savings totaling $835 million over the next five years, a challenge that will be most likely be left up to The Stephen Group which has already been called upon to help identify where those savings will come from. Let us not think for a moment that all of this will run through the veins of liberal left without some verbal criticism from the tear-jerking politicians in Little Rock. They’ll be singing the blues saying these poor people shouldn’t have to pay any premiums, that they shouldn’t have to be forced to actually get a job or be penalized for owing their home or driving around in their late model Cadillac Escalades. These are just fellow Arkansans, they say, who simple don’t have any form of “reported” income and shouldn’t be penalized for owning a “few” worldly possessions. Anyway, we applaud this task force’s endorsement of the governor’s recommendations and feel these are the necessary steps to avert a major financial issue in attempting to take care of a growing number of Arkansans dependent upon tax supported subsidies.

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