Lobbyist Bradley Phillips tweeted yesterday from the winter meeting of the County Judges Association: Surgeon General Greg Bledsoe, one of the governor’s top surrogates on health care and the private option, gave a presentation to the assembled judges on the governor’s plan to continue the private option with some conservative tweaks.
Hmmm. County judges don’t necessarily need to know the ins and outs of “Arkansas Works,” the governor’s proposal to keep the state’s Medicaid expansion in place (although of course the impact on county hospitals is huge). But county judges are very concerned right now over whether or not billions of dollars of highway money comes in to the state. And the governor has been very clear that the highway money is dependent on keeping the (tweaked) private option in place, because of the PO’s positive impact on the state budget. The governor’s allies have been making this crystal clear to the relevant stakeholders: if they want highway money, the continuation of the private option needs to pass.
I’m told that Bledsoe made no direct appeal to the judges, but it’s hard not to read between the lines here. If county judges want highway money coming in, it would behoove them to go back home and rally support and political pressure on the legislature to pass the private option (AKA “Arkansas Works”). Perhaps they picked up a talking point or two from Bledsoe’s presentation. I checked the agenda and Bledsoe was not included, so perhaps, with PO politics heating up, this was added as a last-minute pitch. The Chamber of Commerce and other big players in the state are already pushing hard for the private option; tying the PO to highway funding likely broadens the constituencies that will have major stakes in backing the governor’s plan.
The rumor, by the way, is that Sen. Cecile Bledsoe, Greg Bledsoe’s mother, is currently leaning No.
Support for special health care reporting made possible by the Arkansas Public Policy Panel.