The message machine: Private option ended | Arkansas Blog

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The message machine: Private option ended

Posted By on Thu, Jan 22, 2015 at 1:02 PM

click to enlarge MESSAGE MAVEN: Tim Griffin.
  • MESSAGE MAVEN: Tim Griffin.
Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin issued a news release praising Gov. Asa Hutchinson's speech on health.

That's not news. No. 2 Repub praises No. 1 Repub.

But check the language:

Governor Hutchinson’s decision to end the private option and to embark upon comprehensive Medicaid reform is exactly the right approach: The private option was never a sustainable or permanent solution, and only comprises a relatively small portion of the Medicaid program. The Governor’s plan is thoughtful and deliberate and will result in a responsible, innovative and historic solution that will provide quality health care to those in need, without busting the budget or raising taxes on hardworking Arkansans. ...

There you have the patented Republican Party talking-point machine at work. Hutchinson will END THE PRIVATE OPTION.

He is doing no such thing, though he indeed announced the beginning of an effort to take on the entirety of Medicaid's structure in 2017 and beyond.

Hutchinson made clear today that he wants to keep the private option exactly as it is for TWO MORE YEARS. He even explicitly answered a question by saying he had no plans for cosmetic additions in the short-run to placate opposition. I don't doubt he hopes and plans for dramatic changes in the future delivery of health care. But even then, Hutchinson vowed — and law demands — that there be continuity of care for the 200,000 or more in Arkansas who gain health insurance under the private option in the meanwhile.

End the private option? Not exactly. Except as a label.

But you have heard the message. Turn on Fox News. You'll hear it some more.

Griffin has years of practice at this, beginning in his days as a war room gunslinger for Karl Rove's White House.

PS: I should be clear based on a little blowback. Hutchinson's speech was encouraging and, pat self on back, exactly what I predicted in a panel discussion yesterday for Talk Business.  I got then and get now that Hutchinson moves forward with an emphasis on dramatic shifts in the overall delivery of health care by government. But the "private option" — that phrase given to the expansion of Medicaid to working poor through the Obamacare legislation — remains alive in its current form for two years and the coverage, Hutchinson said, will continue after that, though perhaps in permutations drastically different than today.

UPDATE: Americans for Prosperity, the Koch-financed source of much of the organized opposition to Medicaid expansion, has issued a statement picking up the end-of-private-option language and carefully endorsing many of the principles outlined by Hutchinson. Tacit endorsement? I think it's possible. If so, what do the hard-core 'baggers in the legislature do?

Here's how Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, a progressive group saw the speech today, by the way:

The Private Option has been a huge success here in Arkansas. We are glad to know the governor believes in its positive impact, that he cited the tremendous drop in our state’s uninsured rate, and that he used personal examples of how important the Private Option is to individuals and their families. He also highlighted how important the Private Option has been for hospitals in Arkansas, reducing the cost of treating uninsured patients by over $69 million.

We agree with Gov. Hutchinson that the goal is to have a healthier Arkansas. That’s why, moving beyond December of 2016, it will be important to have a plan that protects quality, affordable coverage for Arkansans, protects the gains we’ve made so far, and does not put up unnecessary barriers to coverage. The governor said he will create a task force that will offer advice and direction for the program’s future. It is essential that this task force include health coverage and consumer advocates who speak up for Arkansas’s low-income children and families.


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