Gov. Asa Hutchinson told reporters today that he’d joined with three other Republican governors — in Mississippi, Arizona and Wisconsin — to have input on the Graham-Cassidy legislation that Republicans are trying to push through the Senate without budget analysis and says he supports it. He insists, contrary to multiple accounts, that the legislation won’t result in a reduction in federal support of health coverage for Arkansas. The state “will be made whole,” he insisted.

A number of other Republican governors have NOT endorsef the legislation, which has been described as doing more cutting of Medicaid funding for the states than previous proposals and to most likely penalize states, like Arkansas, that adopted the Medicaid expansion of the Affordable Care Act. The pending legislation turns federal support into a block grant distributed on an essentially per capita basis, with no increase in the amount now being expended. That’s expected to cut the amount Arkansas receives, by as much as $1.1 billion in 2026 by one analysis.


As yet, no details on how Hutchinson explains support for changes that seem likely to reduce the numbers in Arkansas qualifying for coverage. Nor has he addressed what Arkansas is likely to do on continuing protection in premium costs for people with pre-existing medical conditions. With less money, an end to mandated participation and other changes, recent analysis indicates the continuation of health coverage for sick people would come at a cost that most couldn’t afford.

Coping with a state budget newly hammered by a change in Medicaid policy is another key issue.


Noted: Among many opposing the legislation is the American Medical Association because it says millions would lose health coverage.

Hutchinson said, “This is our last chance” to repeal Obamacare. If Graham-Cassidy fails, the Affordable Care Act is here in perpetuity, he said. Some 300,000-plus Arkansans would say that’s a good thing, not to mention beneficiaries of Hutchinson income tax cuts financed by the infusion of Obamacare money. But also: There is a bipartisan effort to fix some flaws in the Affordable Care Act. For whatever reason, Arkansas’s governor has thrown in with the prevailing Republican majority to undo everything President Obama did, no matter how many people’s lives were saved.


Hutchinson contends, contrary to multiple accounts, that it’s “just not so” to say Arkansas will receive millions less under the legislation.

At least five Republican governors have written in opposition to the legislation, along with five other governors.

In the letter, the governors called on senators to abandon the Graham-Cassidy bill and pursue bipartisan legislation to stabilize the health insurance market instead. They also urged lawmakers to use regular order to craft legislation, rather than follow the rushed process GOP leaders are using in their last-ditch attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

Hutchinson contends the latest legislation doesn’t create a significant cost shift to the state and gives the flexibility to run its own program. It may not be a cost shift, but it WILL be eventually a reduction in expected support to the state. The state won’t pay. Beneficiaries of the coverage will.

Hutchinson acknowledged that the end of the mandate means many will drop insurance and that, in turn, will cause a rise in uncompensated care. Block grant money can be used to cover that, he asserted. How it will cover that and also provide insurance for poor people is a question yet to be answered.


He acknowledged, too, the peril for those with pre-existing conditions. High-risk pools could be created for those people, he said.  Those pools haven’t been successful as a rule in the past, requiring substantial premiums for sketchy coverage.

He said he didn’t see the legislation as a “disruption” to Arkansas’s existing Medicaid expansion, but a continuation of it, though cost controls would be required.  He touted the elimination of a state match for Medicaid dollars. Will it go into health care? Maybe. But not necessarily, not with a Republican legislature hungering for tax cuts.

The shape of a new Arkansas plan wouldn’t be due until 2019, after Hutchinson has stood for re-election.

He said he’d spoken regularly with Sens. Tom Cotton and John Boozman. He didn’t indicate how they planned to vote but he reported no reluctance from them either. Indeed,later in the day their offices said they supported the legislation. Of course.

He said he’d have liked more time for regular hearings and a congressional budget analysis. But in the end is living with Obamacare or making a change. That’s because under Senate rules it has only less than two weeks to pass this sweeping change with a simple majority vote not subject to filibuster.

ALSO: Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families also opposes the Graham-Cassidy bill, for many solid reasons outlined here.