FIGHTING GRAHAM-CASSIDY: Mike Beebe speaks out. Brian Chilson

Former Gov. Mike Beebe, elected twice as a Democrat against the Republican surge and someone who left office with high approval ratings, has issued an impassioned plea to defeat congressional efforts to kill the federal legislation that allowed the state’s “private option” expansion of Medicaid coverage, to the benefit of 300,000 or more Arkansans.

He’s urged calls to the state’s senators. It’s a wasted effort. Sens. Tom Cotton and John Boozman have made clear their support for just about any plan that dramatically ratchets back the health safety net.

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Never mind that the program has been good for Arkansas people and its economy. Both would be devastated by Graham-Cassidy, Beebe writes. He asks: “Why would we go back?”

Here’s all of what Beebe had to say:

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Fellow Arkansans:

This is Governor Mike Beebe with important information about health care that I think all Arkansans should know.

Over the past few months, I’ve closely followed the health-care debate going on in D.C. The constant sparring, rhetoric, and political grandstanding have been tiresome and terribly frustrating.

To really talk about health care, we first have to talk about how far we have come in Arkansas.

As recently as 2012, a quarter of the state’s entire population had NO health insurance. Twenty-five percent or 750,000 people in Arkansas were uninsured. A vast majority of those folks were working families, the working poor, who simply didn’t earn enough to afford any insurance plan but earned too much to qualify for Medicaid.

Additionally, almost every rural hospital in our state was sinking from the costs of uncompensated care. This is the cost of care every hospital emergency room must shoulder to provide treatment to those who cannot pay for it and which eventually becomes a hidden tax on all of us who do have insurance. Uncompensated care costs were becoming an epidemic threatening to bankrupt hospitals all over this country.
Needless to say, having rural communities facing hospital closures and a staggering number of people in the workforce without insurance posed enormous challenges to the overall well-being of our economy in Arkansas.

The solution, through the Affordable Care Act and agreed upon by both Democrats and Republicans working together, was to EXPAND MEDICAID through a compromise that became known as the “Private Option.” Our state agreed to expand health-care coverage to working Arkansans by expanding traditional Medicaid coverage, but we agreed to use private insurance plans to provide the expanded coverage.

This type of compromise had never taken place before, and we required a 75% super majority in both state chambers in order to pass, a very high bar! Despite the challenges involved, we showed the rest of the country that, in Arkansas, we could come together and do what was best for our state and our citizens.

It was a success. In 2014, Medicaid expansion contributed nearly $511 million to Arkansas’s GDP, or 0.41% growth, according to a report commissioned by the Arkansas Hospital Association.

The Private Option became a model for more conservative states around the country.
The Kaiser Family Foundation even started publishing articles praising our state’s accomplishments. Kaiser Health News – April 1, 2015

Two Southern states — Arkansas and Kentucky — have expanded Medicaid so far. And those states have already seen positive results. The latest Gallup Poll shows that these states experienced the biggest drops in uninsured rates in the country. (Texas and Georgia have the highest uninsured rates.)

Under expansion in Arkansas, more than 233,000 low-income residents have received health insurance. The state stands to save nearly $1 billion over a decade, thanks to expansion. Admissions of uninsured patients to hospitals fell by nearly half in the first six months of expansion.

Under Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson, we once again renewed our unique form of expanding Medicaid, albeit with a new name “Arkansas Works.”
In 2015, the State of Arkansas commissioned a report by the Stephen Group to give the full economic story of Medicaid expansion in Arkansas and its positive effects on our economy.

These are just some of the highlights.

You may wish to read the whole report at the link.

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Since 2013, Arkansas has provided more than 320,000 previously uninsured residents with affordable health-care coverage. We have led the country in reducing the percentage of uninsured residents. Our economy thrived as well. It played a significant role in the fact that, today, we have the lowest unemployment rate in our state’s history.

We will save more than $1.1 billion in reduction of uncompensated care costs, and the net positive impact on the state budget will be $438 million. The positive economic benefits are well into the billions!

I am extremely disappointed that lawmakers in Washington, D.C., have come up with legislation that would take away the success we have built here through “Arkansas Works,” through cooperation, and through a lot of hard work.

But then something happened that made me feel obligated to speak out.
There’s a health-care repeal bill up for consideration going by the name “Cassidy-Graham”. It’s a terrible bill for Arkansans. It would end Medicaid expansion in Arkansas.

It would be devastating to our citizens and our economy.

The front page of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on Thursday reports that Arkansas will lose $6 BILLION in health-care funding over the next seven years under Cassidy-Graham!

It would be the end of “Arkansas Works.”

Ask your senators why. Why disrupt the lives of 320,000 Arkansans who now have health-care coverage? Why create uncertainty in our health-care markets? Why sacrifice all the hard work we have put into building “Arkansas Works?”

Why would we go back?

We did the right thing by providing many of our citizens with access to coverage; we did the right thing in helping our hospitals reduce uncompensated care costs; and we did the right thing in implementing the program that boosted our economy by well over a billion dollars.

I’m proud of what we accomplished under my leadership in 2013, and I was just as proud of the work that was accomplished under Governor Hutchinson in 2015 to continue “Arkansas Works.”

Every Arkansan can be proud of the success we have had in implementing Medicaid expansion in our state, and we should fight with all of our might to keep it.

Call Senator Tom Cotton. Call Senator John Boozman. You can find their information below. Tell them to vote against this health care bill.

Senator John Boozman Office: (501) 372-7153
Senator Tom Cotton Office: (870) 864-8582

Stay in this fight with us. More than 320,000 of your fellow Arkansans are depending on you.

They need your help and our state does too.

Take action and take care,

Mike Beebe