Collins to work toward increasing visitation to Arkansas by groups and promoting the state's appeal
Displaying restaurant inspections
I read your article titled "An Open Government to-do list" in the Jan. 23 issue with great interest. Regarding restaurant inspection scores, I want to tell you that Alabama has required posting of scores right next to the cash register since at least 1990. I was a Public Health employee and the inspectors always told us to only go to restaurants that scored at least an 85!
Who will say 'no' to health care?
During the last session, key Republican legislators put aside their dislike of Obamacare to craft a unique way to accept federal dollars to provide health insurance to Arkansans who desperately need it — the "private option."
At a time when our two-party federal government has reached a new level of childish bad behavior, Arkansas is an example of bipartisan governing at its very best. Reports of our accomplishments have been touted by the media in every state. At the same time, news outlets in states whose taxpayer dollars will help pay for unprecedented healthcare access in Arkansas and 26 other states (plus the District of Columbia) are printing sad personal stories and warning of the dire consequences of denying similar healthcare access to their own citizens.
One by one, Republican governors and state legislators are seeing the value of what has been done in Arkansas. Last week Utah's Republican Gov. Gary Herbert, long a holdout against Medicaid expansion, jumped on the bandwagon, saying, "Doing nothing is not an option." The Utah plan emulates the Arkansas private option, as do the Medicaid expansion plans of Iowa and Pennsylvania.
It must have been difficult to vote for the private option during the 2013 general session. It was an untested healthcare plan that could not be implemented without approval from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
But now, with the fiscal session right around the corner, legislators know exactly what they will be voting for or against. Published reports indicate that roughly 100,000 Arkansans have enrolled in healthcare coverage through Arkansas's federally facilitated marketplace. The private option is working "exactly like the Legislature asked us to build it and enrollment is above where it should be," to quote DHS Director John Selig speaking before the Joint Budget Committee on Tuesday, Jan. 21. Estimates of the cost per enrollee are right on target, and the percentage of 18-35 year old signups has created a desirable risk pool to attract insurance carriers to Arkansas and keep premiums competitive. Michael Leavitt, a former Utah governor and U.S. Health and Human Services secretary now consulting for Arkansas on amendments to the private-option waiver, told legislators that Arkansas could be a national leader in making Medicaid more efficient. He said the private option "is not just pioneering, it is truly transforming."
If Arkansas legislators renew their support for the private option, our state will retain its place in history as a leader in healthcare system transformation. For the first time, our hospitals and physicians will be able to make a noticeable dent in the profound health disparities causing a 10-year difference in life expectancy between Benton and Phillips Counties. Providing health care to uninsured people across the state will systematically attack our bottom-of-the-barrel health statistics — one chronic disease at a time.
But what if our legislators vote to end the private option and snatch healthcare services away from people who may be visiting a primary care physician for the first time in their lives as we speak? What if access to preventive care is taken away from Arkansans who had begun to hope that their lives might not be colored by progressive disability and the prospect of early death? The newly elected Sen. John Cooper ran on a vow to end the Medicaid expansion. Sen. Missy Irvin, who was reportedly one of the deciding votes for the private option in 2013, says she made a mistake and will vote now to repeal it. If Arkansas legislators discard the private option at the same time that other states are scrambling to copy it, just how stupid will we look in history books of the future?
And if looking stupid in the eyes of the nation isn't sufficient disincentive to repeal the private option, I'll ask instead, which legislator will vote to take away from diabetics the promise of managing their disease with medications that were out of reach to them until now? Which legislator will vote to deny regular preventive care to Arkansans at risk for heart disease or stroke?
If the private option is defeated, the names of the legislators who voted against allowing folks to keep the healthcare services they have only just begun to appreciate will be recorded forever in Arkansas history. The families who will lose a wage-earning father to a heart attack at an early age will know who to blame. Diabetics who lose a limb to amputation will remember the legislators who denied them health care when the vision of a healthier state was on the table, just one vote away.
Think about it, legislators, how do you want to be remembered? I'm asking my senator, Sen. Jane English, what's it worth to you to keep an uninformed campaign promise?
North Little Rock
From the web
In response to last week's cover story, "The Arkansas private option could be in trouble"
Rep. Deborah Ferguson should check on how well radiologists are paid in Arkansas compared to the rest of the country — because of an old consent decree, their payment per service is quite distorted in the state — radiologists make more relative to other specialties in Arkansas. We need a more modern reimbursement code in Arkansas.
Only the first GOP controlled House and Senate since Reconstruction could come up with implementing the private option ... just to kill it the next year.
Especially in an election year. Yeah, get 100,000 signed up for coverage, and yank it away from them six months later.
So we give tons of people health insurance, some that even cancelled other insurance to get this, and then take it away less than two months after giving it to them? What are they supposed to do now that they either have no way to get insurance or open enrollment for them is months away?
What a laughing stock Arkansas has become.
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