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story.lead_photo.caption Gov. Asa Hutchinson speaks Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2015, to a joint meeting of the Legislative Healthcare Reform Task Force and the governor’s Medicaid Advisory Council. - Photo by Gavin Lesnick

Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Wednesday that he would support continued Medicaid expansion in Arkansas if the state is allowed changes from the federal government that provide greater flexibility.

Hutchinson outlined elements of what he called a "potential plan" while talking to a joint meeting of the Legislative Healthcare Reform Task Force and the governor’s Medicaid Advisory Council. He described seven changes he wants to see for the private option, some of which would require waivers from the federal government before they could be instituted.

"As governor, I will accept the continued expansion dollars from the federal government if we can achieve the [Medicaid] waivers that are needed," he said at the end of his presentation. "These are the requirements that we need to accomplish our objectives, reinforce our values and to afford our future. Business as usual is not acceptable. Washington, D.C., accounting does not work in Arkansas. We have to plan for the future."

Among his proposals were requiring workers to take the insurance provided by their place of employment and then offering them premium assistance; charging premiums to enrollees with incomes greater than 100 percent of the federal poverty level; eliminating non-emergency medical transportation coverage; and limiting enrollment in the private-insurance marketplace.

On the enrollment-limiting change, which Hutchinson described afterward as the most "novel" and likely to spur debate of the potential changes, private-insurance coverage would be restricted to those at or above a variable percent of the federal poverty level.

"It would not be a system where everybody from 0 to 138 percent of the poverty level is automatically granted access to the private insurance market," he said, adding the others would get traditional Medicaid coverage and that the change would create savings and incentivize work.

Hutchinson also proposed finding other Medicaid cost-savings and requiring unemployed and underemployed private-option enrollees be referred for work-training.

"Currently, there is no linkage to work whatsoever under the private option," he said. "There needs to be a linkage to work."

The work change would not require a federal waiver, Hutchinson said.

The governor acknowledged during his speech that legislators will discuss the proposals and may change them or shoot them down. He said afterward that he thinks it's "important to put these ideas out there."

"I think it makes sense," he said. "We'll see if they agree with that."

He said most of the changes have been allowed in other states.

During his remarks, Hutchinson noted that ending Medicaid expansion completely would cause up to $1.7 billion to be removed from the state economy and leave some 220,000 people without care. Continuing it, however, will cost the state $50 million to $60 million a year starting in 2020, he said.

Hutchinson told the panel that if it doesn't want to leave the current enrollees without coverage, then care can be paid for either through Medicaid expansion or through the state's budget.

"I have not talked to many that believe we can absorb the cost of coverage to 220,000 out of state general revenues," he said.

See Thursday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full coverage.

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  • Nodmcm
    August 19, 2015 at 12:51 p.m.

    I doubt that President Obama will agree to work requirements as conditions for receipt of federal Medicaid benefits. There aren't enough jobs for everyone who wants one, just look at the unemployment rate. There are lots of folks working part-time jobs who want full-time ones, also, who are underemployed. What we need are those jobs back from Mexico and China. We need tough leaders who are not beholden to big business, and who are willing to force businesses to either create more high-paying jobs in Arkansas, or be taxed out of existence! Companies that move jobs overseas are traitors to Arkansas and America; their only loyalties are to capital, also known as filthy lucre. Why reward the rich with low taxes when they take their money to Mexico to build factories? Even Ford is opening a huge plant in Mexico! Maybe tariffs are needed, but until we get those jobs back from Mexico and China, Gov. Hutchinson is dreaming if he thinks all of the out-of-work/underemployed Medicaid/Private Option recipients can become computer programmers and go to work in Silicon Valley in California.

  • BEARTRAP919
    August 19, 2015 at 1:02 p.m.

    Republicans are in Charge in Arkansas now. Get set for more changes that will help the Rich, and expect more burdens for the less well off. Already Taxes have been cut and Salaries Raised for all elected Officials, Judges, Prosecutors and others. More Cuts to Public Health, Complete cut of help to Planned Parenthood, More cuts to health agencies throughout the State. More Strings attached to all Benefit Programs. Arkansas continues to advance to the Rear Rapidly,

  • Happy1234
    August 19, 2015 at 1:02 p.m.

    eliminating non-emergency medical transportation coverage
    Let me see.
    I have a disabling heart condition, can't drive to the pharmacy for meds thus I have a heart attack so emergency assistance is needed.
    Cost to take care of heart attack $150,000.
    Cost of a trip to the pharmacy $15.
    I know the Governor thinks it's the principle of the thing.
    Asa offering a sick person a free ride to the pharmacy is the right thing to do.

    Asa I see where you want to spend $7.6 million to feed and house 200 more prisoners.
    Do you suppose you could turn over a few more rocks in Little Rock and find 1/2million more to help fund our Senior Citizen Centers so our old folks won't go hungry. Begin typing here...

  • Vickie55
    August 19, 2015 at 1:28 p.m.

    Nodmcm, just about every fast-food place in my town has an ad in the window for help wanted. There are jobs available for people willing to work the jobs.

  • cliffcarson
    August 19, 2015 at 4:03 p.m.

    Vicki
    First, not all Fast Food Jobs pay enough to cover Basic Needs, and finally Hutchinson placed Arkansas in a very dangerous Financial condition. Thru the Republican hatred of Obama and their goal of blocking anything Obama they have risked coverage of 220,000 Arkansans , or to keep the coverage with the Arkansas Taxpayers paying the whole tab it would cost the Taxpayers an additional $1.7 Billion annually.
    What our Republican Governor did is the ultimate of Stupidity. And this stupidity was committed with the foreknowledge of the cost to Arkansas citizens.
    I keep saying "this is what you get for voting Republican."
    Open your eyes. This is just the beginning.
    As to denying transportation except for emergency, there are many poor who can't afford to do what I had to do with my wife who couldn't leave the house except in an ambulance. When we went to the Dentist or the eye doctor -the cost of say the dentist might be $100. Ambulance Transportation would approach $900 dollars. I could afford it. I'll bet those 44,000 people working below the minimum wage line couldn't have afforded it.
    The 220,000 on Medicaid below the poverty line most likely couldn't be able to pay a Thousand dollars to visit the dentist or eye doctor.
    The Republican Party hates poor people and low income people. Except as soldiers to fight and die in wars of profit for Republicans.

  • amechie
    August 19, 2015 at 7:59 p.m.

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  • carpenterretired
    August 19, 2015 at 10:03 p.m.

    Republicans for the last five years with the ACA have been the little Dutch boy painting them selves into corners and Asa now has to wiggle out of the corner by being as slick as slick Wille.

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