Lawmakers Challenge Governor Over Healthcare

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Governor Asa Hutchinson called a press conference Tuesday to defend against attacks to his healthcare plan.

The move comes on the first day of an early voting in primaries that could have a big impact on healthcare in the state.

“We’re being attacked because somehow were inextricably linked to Obamacare,” Hutchinson said. 

Hutchinson and his supporters in the legislature want to continue parts of the program that expanded Medicaid coverage to 200,000 Arkansans.

The program was born out of the federal Affordable Care Act, and during this election season some are using that to tie the governor and other Republicans to President Obama.

“There is no ‘Obamacare’ in Arkansas,” said State Sen. Eddie Joe Williams, R-Cabot.  “We chose not to do that.  We all voted against that.”

Williams is one of several lawmakers facing challengers attacking their support for the governor’s plan. Hutchinson is aiming to counter as votes to fund the program during the April fiscal session are expected to be extremely close.

“I support the governor on virtually everything, ” said State Sen. Bart Hester, R-Cave Springs.

But on healthcare, Hester is among those opposing the governor’s plan.

“As a separate branch, we shouldn’t be an extension of the governor,” he said.   

If the March 1st primary produces more lawmakers who side with Hester, the governor’s healthcare plan could be in trouble. Hutchinson says that would put a $100 million hole in the budget leading to cuts in public safety and education. It would also put his highway funding plan in jeopardy, the governor said.  

Reaction:

Arkansas House of Representatives Minority Leader Michael John Gray, D-Augusta:

“Today, Governor Hutchinson made it clear that he was taking the lead on health care policy in Arkansas. In fact, Governor Hutchinson didn’t mince words when expressing his desire to continue Medicaid expansion in Arkansas. Indeed, without the continuation of Medicaid expansion Arkansas would be facing at least a $100 million shortfall in his budget.

The Governor pointed out K-12 education and highways would likely be at the forefront of funding cuts. We share the Governor’s concern about the future of the State budget.

As Democrats, we have consistently turned away from DC style politics to put the health care, education and basic needs of Arkansans first.

House Democrats look forward to working with Governor Hutchinson to protect the future of Arkansas. We know that the people of Arkansas deserve leaders who will put politics aside and look for common sense solutions.”

David Ray, state director of Americans for Prosperity Arkansas:

 “Today Governor Hutchinson attempted to paper over the fact that Medicaid expansion is one of the core pillars of Obamacare, just like the employer and individual mandates. President Obama’s own Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services have stated that Arkansas has ‘implemented the ACA Medicaid expansion.’ The Governor’s outline for ‘Arkansas Works,’ just like the ‘Private Option,’ relies on Obamacare money to provide a taxpayer-funded entitlement to the exact same population as outlined in Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion. This is a distinction without a difference, and Arkansas legislators should reject any attempts to cement Arkansas’ status as an Obamacare Medicaid expansion state.”

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