LITTLE ROCK — Former President Bill Clinton urged Southern governors to seek cooperation as they try to expand research and development in the region, praising Kentucky and Arkansas for their success cutting the number of uninsured.
Speaking to the Southern Governors’ Association at the group’s annual meeting in Little Rock, the former Arkansas governor said that states that find ways to network and cooperate will have the most success. The group is focusing on promoting and expanding research and development in the South.
"We are living at a breathtaking moment of possibility, and if we blow it, shame on us," Clinton said. "There are a lot of people who know more about various details of their (research and development) strategy, but I know this: Cooperation works, networking works, empowering people works."
Clinton praised his home state and Kentucky for their success in expanding coverage through the federal health care overhaul, a law that has been unpopular in many Republican-leaning states throughout the region. Arkansas last year approved a compromise plan to use federal Medicaid money to purchase private insurance for low-income residents, and hundreds of thousands have enrolled for coverage through the state-run insurance marketplace Kentucky set up under the law.
The two states had the highest drop in the number of uninsured residents in a poll released by Gallup earlier this month. Arkansas saw a drop of about 10 percentage points in its share of uninsured residents, from 22.5 percent in 2013, to 12.4 percent by the middle of this year. Kentucky experienced a drop of nearly 9 percentage points, from 20.4 percent of its residents uninsured in 2013, to 11.9 percent.
Clinton praised both states’ approaches as "practical solutions to a genuine challenge."
"They give us a chance to try models of health care which are based more on pay for performance than pay for procedure, so we move to a health outcome based system and not just an input driven system," Clinton said.
Clinton said health care is a key part of a good research and development system.
"If you want (a research and development network), one of the things you ought to have good R and D on are the health care of your people, the challenges they face and what can be done both to have a healthier population and a smaller health care bill," Clinton said.
Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe, who is the outgoing chairman of SGA, planned to talk about Arkansas’ compromise Medicaid expansion at a panel discussion Saturday. Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear is among the governors attending the group’s annual meeting.