Gov. Asa Hutchinson defends plan to keep Medicaid expansion

Gov. Asa Hutchinson tells more than 20 legislators and officials at a press conference Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2016, that supporting Arkansas Works is not the same as supporting the Affordable Care Act.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson tells more than 20 legislators and officials at a press conference Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2016, that supporting Arkansas Works is not the same as supporting the Affordable Care Act.

LITTLE ROCK — Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Tuesday defended his plan to keep Arkansas' hybrid Medicaid expansion, dismissing criticism that the proposal is an embrace of the federal health care law he and other Republicans want to repeal.

Hutchinson on Tuesday pushed back against criticism that several Republican lawmakers are facing opposition from primary challengers over their support of the "private option."

Under the private option, Arkansas is using federal funds to purchase private insurance for low-income residents.

Hutchinson has proposed keeping the program but renaming it Arkansas Works and adding new restrictions to its eligibility and benefits. The governor said ending the expansion would mean a budget gap of at least $100 million.

Hutchinson plans to give a speech Wednesday detailing his negotiations with the federal government on the proposed changes to the program.

Read Wednesday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.