Governor pitches Obamacare continuation plan to press | Arkansas Blog

Friday, March 25, 2016

Governor pitches Obamacare continuation plan to press

Posted By and on Fri, Mar 25, 2016 at 10:12 AM

click to enlarge MEETING THE PRESS: Gov. Hutchinson this morning. - ARKANSAS BUSINESS
  • Arkansas Business
  • MEETING THE PRESS: Gov. Hutchinson this morning.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson brought in reporters at 10 a.m. today to explain his proposals to continue the Obamacare-funded Medicaid expansion, with some amendments to make it more palatable to conservatives. That legislation began circulating yesterday. He's also discussing his idea to shift a big part of Medicaid to a managed care system to reduce costs.

The governor emphasized the "unique nature of our emphasis on employer-based insurance" in Arkansas Works, his rebranded version of the private option Medicaid expansion. The program attempts to enhance employer-based insurance plans for workers who would be private option-eligible whenever those employees do have access to insurance coverage at their workplace; it's unclear how many workers statewide could potentially be affected, though Hutchinson said "I would say it’s a large number." He also emphasized the estimated $1.4 billion in savings from the overall Medicaid budget if his managed care plan is implemented

Hutchinson also said he was committed to reducing the state's 3,000-person list of families of developmentally disabled people who are waiting on waivers to receive home or community-based services. His managed care plan will do that, he said, though the governor stopped short of promising to clear the waitlist.

An interesting question that Hutchinson tip-toed around: He needs only a simple majority to adopt his amended Obamacare Medicaid expansion plan. But he needs three-fourths for the appropriation. Democrats have some fear they'll provide most of the muscle for the important symbolic extension of Obamacare and then get hammered for it by Republicans in the election. Shouldn't he try to get the three-fourths for the principle as well as the technical appropriation?

He's not ready to say whether issues such as a change in selection of appellate judges will be on the series of special sessions planned this year. Same with ethics legislation proposed by Democrats. Hutchinson said the upcoming special session should deal only with health care.

Reporters also asked the governor about plans to screen TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) applicants for substance abuse, a policy that's largely been unsuccessful in other states. Hutchinson noted that the 2015 law creating the program was supported by a majority of legislators in both parties, and insisted that "the objective of this legislation is not to cut people off of a welfare benefit. The objective is to reduce drug dependency in Arkansas."

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