Gov. Asa Hutchinson will host a Town Hall meeting to discuss the proposed Arkansas Works plan at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Central Baptist College in Conway.
Arkansas Works would replace the private option passed in 2013 that uses federal Medicaid money to purchase private insurance for people with incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty line, which expires at the end of the year.
The plan has drawn mixed reactions within the Republican party.
Republican statesmen, Sen. Bryan King and Rep. Charlie Collins, argued both sides in a debate hosted by the Faulkner County Tea Party.
Collins argued in favor of approving Arkansas Works while King argued against it.
King referred to the program as "trying to scheme the federal government out of money this country doesn’t have," while Collins said it’s "the best of a bad situation."
King pointed to other states — using Oklahoma, Missouri and Tennessee as examples — that didn’t expand Medicaid or create a private option.
"It may be it’s a problem that’s going to have to be fixed by Congress some day. But, the reality is, in our state, in looking at it from a state and federal perspective, to keep making deals with President Obama means guess what — our country is going to go more in debt," King said. "So, I think that we’ve got to look at other states and the federal government, they’re going to have to deal with it."
Collins said he would be in favor of a "superior option" but that, right now, he thinks Arkansas has the best program available under the law. In 2013, Collins said, 25 states didn’t expand Medicaid, 24 states and the District of Columbia expanded Medicaid and Arkansas created the private option.
"Arkansas said, ‘You’re taking $10 billion from us over five years, we want our money back.’ So, we devised the private option," he said. "In the ensuing three years, as states have been looking at other states, what are people doing? Out of all the states, the only changes have been five states that copied us. Currently, many others are looking at what we’re doing, including South Carolina. So the answer to the question ‘What are other states doing?’ is they’re copying Arkansas’ approach, which is the best of a bad situation." For more information about Arkansas Works, residents can attend the Town Hall on Tuesday. The event is scheduled to last an hour.
(Assistant managing editor Jeanette Anderton can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 505-1212. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)