Our View:Hutchinson’s plan on Arkansas health care

Regardless of political party affiliation anyone concerned about Arkansas’ health care coverage should identify with Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s belief that while we should continue funding for the state’s expanded Medicaid program we can certainly still oppose the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare. On the eve of Hutchinson outlining his proposal to overhaul the state’s version of Obamacare to his legislative task force, the governor attempted to make it clear that it is perfectly consistent, and it is perfectly conservative to oppose Obamacare as a federal policy and yet accept the millions upon millions of federal tax dollars under the Medicaid program in Arkansas. During a special news conference, Hutchinson again said it is a logical position and it does not, in any way, embrace the federal policy that is the framework of Obamacare. We’ve said all along that while there are many staunch opponents of Arkansas’ version of Obamacare that unless there is an acceptable alternative up for consideration there is absolutely no way Arkansas taxpayers can afford to provide free or subsidized health care to about 250,000 Arkansans. Reversing the state’s plan would leave a funding gap of more than $100 million in the state budget that includes the cost of restoring Medicaid programs that were replaced by the state’s so-called Private Option, which provides medical care to the uninsured. Hutchinson is preparing to pitch his plan to lawmakers during a special session of the Legislature beginning April 13 where he will need approval by a three-fourths majority. While Hutchinson is pleading his case, and in our opinion, with good reasoning, the critics are saying the governor is simply attempting to redefine Obamacare. They’re saying the expanded Medicaid program, i.e. Private Option, is not Obamacare “for one reason: because if they admit it is, they won’t be re-elected because the people of Arkansas don’t want it.” This is a political hot potato that no politician wants to toss around but the fact is that while critics are condemning what Hutchinson is trying to do nobody has the answers to how are the taxpayers are going to deal with the quarter million poor Arkansans and where will the millions upon millions of tax dollars come from to deal with this potential crisis. We’ve pointed out many times some of Hutchinson’s plans for dealing with the situation. It all boils down to saving as much tax dollars as possible to absorb the cost of the state’s share of expenses and making those benefiting from this Private Option more accountable by making some pay a portion of their coverage and requiring those able bodied individuals to get job training and become self dependent. While there are valid reasons to staunchly oppose Obamacare at this point it makes absolutely no common sense to turn down federal money because there are those people who want to make a political point. The point also needs to be made that if a republican is elected president, which we certainly hope so, Arkansas likely will be able to make further changes in how it provides free and subsidized medical coverage to those Arkansans who can’t afford it. We are confident that despite the critics opposition, lawmakers will go along with Hutchinson’s revisions.

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