Our View: Partisan politics poised to sully special session

Well, well, well… now that Sen. Keith Ingram, D-West Memphis, has coming out and accused Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson of having too much influence on a state legislative task force he created to come up with recommendations on how best to deal with the state’s version of Obamacare, it will certainly be interesting to see if he’s able to garner enough votes on an alternative proposal during the governor’s special session next month. During a recent state legislative task force meeting, the majority did express support for continuing health coverage for the more than 260,000 low-income Arkansans but it split on whether the state should turn to managed-care companies to reduce the costs of caring for the disabled and mentally ill. While eight members voted in favor of the managed-care proposal, supported by Gov. Hutchinson, seven other members voted to recommend an alternative proposal. When the vote was called Sen. Linda Chesterfield, D-Little Rock, abstained. Ingram and Reps. Deborah Ferguson, D-West Memphis, simply didn’t respond when their name was called during the roll call vote. Ingram and Ferguson told a reporter after the meeting they support continuing Medicaid expansion but wanted the task force to vote on the managed-care recommendation first. So then, here are the two proposals: • Under managed care, the state would pay a fixed amount for each Medicaid recipient to provide recipients’ care. • Under managed fee for service, the state would still pay doctors and other health care providers directly but would hire one or more companies to help coordinate the services. • Savings from full-risk managed care, supported by Gov. Hutchinson:: $1.439 billion, 2017-2021. • Savings from managed fee-for-service, supported by Ingram and other opponents of managed care: $1,057 billion, 2017-2021. Ingram and opponents to the governor’s plan are of the opinion that managed-care companies would cost the state more than the companies the state would hire under the alternate proposal. And, one opponent said there are fears managed-care companies would save money by cutting provider payments and limiting benefits. On the other hand, proponents of the governor’s plan, said they have no confidence that the state would be able to curb the growth of its Medicaid spending without hiring managed-care companies, and they are not convinced the state knows how to manage anything well. From that point of view, it is hard to argue the fact there is now politicians admitting the state’s largest agency, the Department of Human Services with a budget of $8.3 billion and about 7,400 employees, needs serious reorganization. Furthermore, it can’t be disputed the problems the state has in trying to manage the state multimillion-dollar scholarship lottery, which the Medicaid program is under, as well as dealing with the massive issues within the Department of Corrections. It will certainly be interesting to see how lawmakers vote on this issue and whether or not Ingram, Ferguson and other opponents of the governor’s proposal are able to get their way.

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