Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced this morning that he’d take the advice of legislative leaders and not include managed care of some Medicaid services on the call for the special session to begin tomorrow.

Legislative resistance to Hutchinson’s plan for managed care for mentally ill and developmentally disabled had prompted House Speaker Jeremy Gillam and Senate President Pro Tem Jonathan Dismang to urge him not to take it up for now. He’ll continue with the plan to ask the legislature to adopt the framework of his reworking of the Obamacare-financed Medicaid expansion known as the private option. Hutchinson’s “Arkansas Works” version — with required payments by recipients and other features — has majority support but no one is sure yet if it enjoys the 75 percent support necessary for adoption of an appropriation bill in the coming regular fiscal session.


His call for the session has nothing more than Arkansas Works except for some gubernatorial appointments.

The Arkansas Democratic Party answered the news with a news release raising the question about the future of the private option. It suggests Democrats would like to see some alterations in what he proposed. It’s the least he can do, they suggest. Democrats support the private option, but the Republican governor is having a hard time herding all the legislators of his party into that camp.


The Democratic release:

Today, Vincent Insalaco, chairman of the Democratic Party of Arkansas, released the following statement on the economic impact and inhumane toll on the state if the Private Option fails in the legislature:

“We call on Governor Asa Hutchinson to be honest with all Arkansans. Without the Private Option, Arkansas’s nationally recognized patient-focused approach to healthcare(1), our state’s budget, the education of our children, and Arkansas’s future workforce will be in jeopardy.”

“Democrats will not stand for any change to the Private Option that would make it harder for thousands of Arkansans to keep their health insurance. Clearly, Governor Asa Hutchinson has no Republican majority when it comes to continuing the Private Option. He will need the help of some Democrats. As Arkansas Democrats reach across the aisle to work out our differences on proposed changes to the Private Option, Republicans refuse to do their part. We must all work together to craft a solution that benefits the people of Arkansas.”

“Let us review these facts:

More than 250,000 Arkansans enrolled in the Private Option would lose their private health insurance.

Arkansas is a national leader in reducing the number of uninsured adults.

Since 2013, Arkansas’s uninsured adults went from a national high of 22.5 percent to 9.1 percent.

The health of mothers, babies, and children will be threatened.

More than half of the quarter-million people enrolled in the Private Option are women.
In the Private Option’s first year, more than 30,000 children were enrolled.

The March of Dimes reported the expansion of Medicaid as a contributing factor in the rapid decline of pre-mature births nationally.

Healthcare providers would again be burdened by uncompensated care and some rural hospitals will close due to the high cost of treating uninsured patients.

In the Private Option’s first year, Arkansas hospitals saw a 55 percent or $149 million decrease in financial losses from treating uninsured patients.

Healthy workers equal a health economy!

Nearly 60 percent of people enrolled in the Private Option work in industries crucial to Arkansas’s economy like food service, healthcare support, and construction.

Tuition and fees at Arkansas’s financially strapped public colleges and universities will skyrocket.

Students at Pulaski Tech, a two-year technical college, already paying the state’s second-highest tuition rate for a two-year school, will see their per hour cost hiked by 18 percent or $600 per year for the average full-time student.

University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS), already facing a $35 million shortfall next year, says that shortfall could grow to $100 million without the Private Option.

Arkansas’s state budget would have to be cut across the board.

An independent consultant has verified that the state budget will have to be cut by over $700 million.

The state is estimated to save at least $438 million by 2021, even after including the state’s share of costs for the Private Option.

Kansas and Louisiana have faced similar budget crises, with dire consequences including crippling spending cuts to public education, public health, and other vital services.

The Private Option has made mental health care and substance abuse treatment more accessible.

More than 10 percent of adults who qualify for the Private Option struggle with addiction.

An additional 10 percent have a serious mental illness.”

“If Governor Asa Hutchinson’s legislative majority fails to continue the Private Option, the results will be disastrous. He has come to agree with Democrats who, since 2013, have consistently said, ‘Losing the Private Option would leave a huge hole in Arkansas’s budget and cripple many rural hospitals.’ Now the governor must lead. He should rally Arkansans to call their legislators before the legislative session begins to tell members of his majority that a vote to continue the Private Option is vote for Arkansas’s future.”