LITTLE ROCK Gov. Mike Beebe voiced support for expanding Medicaid at a speech Wednesday before the Arkansas Chamber of Commerce.
"I was worried about it at the outset because I wanted to know if we couldn't afford whatever match we had to pay, could we get out of it," Beebe said. "They told me we could ... We got it in writing. That solved my initial problem ... I'm going to tell you it's convinced me it's the right thing for the people of Arkansas."
Accepting Medicaid expansion requires 75 percent support in the Arkansas House and Senate.
Beebe said not accepting the expansion will result in cuts to services at hospitals, including what could be significant blows to some rural facilities. And he said there could be negative consequences for those with and without insurance as well.
"Most importantly, if we don't get it, there are a lot of people that are going to be uncovered," he said. "And they are what's causing all of our insurance premiums to go up if they're showing up in the emergency rooms for more expensive care and the hospitals have to treat them for nothing."
Beebe called himself a proponent of balancing the budget and reducing the deficit, but he said not accepting the expansion would mean other states getting money that could have gone to Arkansas.
"Don't send my Medicaid money to Illinois and leave my people and my hospitals and my doctors and my employers and my folks in Arkansas out," he said. "That's where I am."
Speaking at the Chamber of Commerce's annual meeting at the Statehouse Convention Center, Beebe also touched on payment reform and the Medicaid shortfall. On the latter, he said those in attendance are responsible for raising the state's per-capita income, which in turn resulted in Arkansas having to cover a greater share of its Medicaid costs.
"The biggest reason we have a Medicaid shortfall is your fault," he told the audience of several hundred business leaders. "We are the victim of our own success."
Beebe said he doesn't usually delve into issues like Medicaid at the Chamber meeting, but he said he felt obliged to because it's an "important issue" to share with an audience composed of "important people that influence important decisions."