Our View: Governor, legislature face ‘bumpy road’ with health care

While Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s predictions as to the winners and losers in this recent Republican primary seem to come out in his favor (which he is saying will solidify his efforts to revamp Arkansas’ form of Obamacare during the upcoming April 13 special session) he will still have to garner a three-fourths vote in each chamber authorizing the appropriation of federal dollars to fund it. If our guess is correct, we have no doubt Hutchinson and his supporters will have no problem convincing Republican counterparts to go alone with what the governor’s “Arkansas Works” plan but, while the GOP has the majority in the House and Senate there are enough democrats to derail it, including Sen. Keith Ingram, D-West Memphis. In his recent audio on Facebook, Ingram clearly defended the current health care program under the branding Private Option and said, “In spite of the success of the Private Option and despite its overwhelming bipartisan support from both political parties in the Legislature the Private Option continues to generate opposition.” Ingram predicts Hutchinson’s efforts face “a bumpy road” and says as few as just nine senators can block the governor’s efforts. “We can’t change the rules of the game during the middle of the process,” Ingram said. “Fortunately there is strong agreement within the health care community that the Private Option has been a success and no matter what we call it for the good of Arkansas it needs to be renewed,” he concluded. But, on the very day after the primaries, Hutchinson said, “Arkansas Works was on the ballot in the context of those who believe in providing common sense practical solutions to Arkansas … stand up to those that are single issue or misconstrue the vote and misrepresent the vote.” As most of us are aware, the controversial Private Option, in its present form, provides free or subsidized health care for well over 260,000 “poor” Arkansans, and the numbers of people meeting the poverty levels are increasing. What naysayers are neglecting to clarify is how they intend to come up with the 10 percent of the cost of this multimillion-dollar subsidy program next year when the Obamacare concept begins to scale back on its state funding. Hutchinson’s reform plan calls for requiring enrollees with incomes above the poverty level to pay premiums of a meager $19 a month and subsidizing some enrollees’ coverage through employer-based plans. The governor also wants lawmakers to consider requiring able-bodied recipients of this government hand-out to enroll in work training programs and actively seek employment. The anticipated savings in the reforms the governor is seeking will go toward absorbing the costs the state will have to pay as Obamacare funding is reduced. While there are some Republicans who simply want to end the state’s involvement in Obamacare completely, there are some liberal Democrats who want to not only continue the status quo but also provide additional government subsidies. And then there are those lawmakers, including Hutchinson, who want to take what is currently in place and institute the necessary reforms that will avoid taxpayers from being forced to absorb additional taxation.

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