Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe led a panel discussion Saturday at the Southern Governors’ Association’s annual meeting, praising what the private option has done for the state, even though the topic has been unpopular with some state politicians.
Beebe, Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley and Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear sat on the panel along with the governors of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Republican State Sen. Jonathan Dismang also sat on the panel. Dismang resides in the seat formerly held by Beebe.
The panel focused on the benefits of the private option, citing that Arkansas had reduced the number of its uninsured more than any other state in the country since the Affordable Care Act was fully implemented.
The panel did not contain any members who were opposed to the private option plan, and Beebe said during the discussion that the opposition will not last long. When moderator Roby Brock asked whether the private option would have still passed with a Democratic majority, Beebe emphatically said it would have.
“This isn’t going away,” Beebe said. “Let’s say 26 percent don’t want to do it. What is that 74 percent going to do, are they just going to roll over, play dead, stick their feet up in the air … Say let’s all go home?”
“Compromise,” Brock said.
“Compromise! Not much, not much,” Beebe said. While the law might need “tweaking” and changes, the legislature won’t allow a minority to dictate the agenda, he said.
“I wouldn’t let 26 or 27 percent of the folks overrule the overwhelming majority, of both parties,” Beebe said. He added, “I get to talk like that, I’m not running for anything.”
O’Malley described the benefits of his program in Maryland as well, where he said the changes the state has allowed hospitals to rank themselves by how few patients they have as opposed to hotels, which only make money based on how many beds they fill.
“They get paid keeping people well, keeping people out of the hospital,” O’Malley said.
Beebe also pointed out Beshear, whose state is second to Arkansas in reducing uninsured citizens. Beebe complimented Beshear on his efforts there, and Beshear said in this, he didn’t mind being second to Arkansas.
Beebe ended the panel with thanks to everyone who was there, and said afterward while his time as governor has been filled with many accomplishments, he was most proud of things like the private option that has allowed Arkansans to see a rise in accolades and the state to move away from a second-place syndrome Beebe said he has seen in the past.
“We’ve tried to instill a swagger in people,” Beebe said. “I hope if I’ve done anything as governor it is instill that confidence.”
This will be Beebe’s last Southern Governors’ Association meeting, and last year as chairman for the organization.