Rep. Bruce Westerman

  • Rep. Bruce Westerman

Republican lawmakers still don’t believe that harsh cuts to Level 3 nursing care are necessary and they’re still resistant to expanding Medicaid, which projects to ease the fiscal crunch enough to save the nursing care. What’s their alternative? We’re still waiting.

Given the Republicans’ public complaints on these issues before the holidays, I thought I should follow up with House Majority Leader Bruce Westerman (R-Hot Springs), who told me a month ago that he was doing research on alternatives to plugging the hole in the state Medicaid budget but wasn’t ready to speak about them.

Westerman said he was “still working on it” — but no specifics. He reiterated that he does not believe cuts to Level 3 nursing care will come to pass.

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Senate President Michael Lamoureux (R-Russellville) agrees. “No one that I know took that to be a serious proposal,” Lamoureux said. “I haven’t found anybody that thinks that’s what we’re going to do in Arkansas and that they really are proposing that. I don’t think anybody’s notified next of kin saying, ‘get ready.’”

Lamoureux thinks it’s an effort to apply political pressure on legislators to opt for Medicaid expansion, which Medicaid director Andy Allison, Gov. Mike Beebe and other state officials have said would provide savings that could be used to save the nursing care.

“I think it’s a little bit of a typical threatening tactic,” Lamoureux said. “You know, ‘if we don’t get our way we’re going to cause a lot of harm.’”

Lamoureux said that Republican lawmakers are hunting for other options but added that “we hope the agency itself is looking for something that’s a more workable solution.”