Republican gubernatorial candidate Asa Hutchinson spoke at the Columbia County Republican Reagan Dinner this past Tuesday and touched on a wide range of subjects.

I noticed he addressed the private option health care plan that was recently passed by the state legislature.  While not offering a full endorsement of the private option, he praised the Republican majority in the legislature for how they handled the issue and implored party activists to “move on.”

“When it came to the incredible responsibility they had with ObamaCare, all I can say is that you have conservatives on both sides of that issue. Whenever it came to the mandate to expand Medicaid, they didn’t say we are going to do it. They said ‘Let’s look at private sector options to see what can happen here.’ Now you can say that is a good idea or a bad idea, but they tried their dead-level best to say ‘Let’s put conservative principles to work,'” said Hutchinson.

“We would never have had to deal with this at all had the congressman then from south Arkansas not allowed ObamaCare to go through the committee,” said Hutchinson taking a shot at his potential general election opponent, former Congressman Mike Ross who voted to advance legislation in committee.  “We are dealing with the mess that was not created by us.”

He also offered criticism for Attorney General Dustin McDaniel and Gov. Mike Beebe for not opposing ObamaCare more strongly.

“If we would have had an Attorney General and a Governor that would have said ‘We will join with the other states that are challenging ObamaCare and its constitutionality,’ it could have made a tipping-point difference,” said Hutchinson.

Using his two nephews – Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson and Sen. Jim Hendren – as examples, he managed to express deference to both positions on the issue.

“I have two nephews both in the Senate – both conservative, both hard working, both thoughtful. One of the them voted for the private option and one voted against it. Now I could say that I agree with my nephews but that would be a cop-out,” joked Hutchinson. “But it goes to show how we as a party, we are governing now, and so we as a party are going to have disputes within our ranks. And we need to learn to debate those, to buy into marketplace ideas, express our convictions, and then move on. And that is what we have to do now.”

Hutchinson added that it was unlikely that ObamaCare would be overturned particularly for the next four years while President Obama is in office as he can veto any repeal attempt.

“The reality is that ObamaCare is here for the near future. Now what is exciting to me is that under what has happened in Arkansas – it might not be ideal – but we are getting waivers that we can manage and create our own future. Missy Irvin got a provider-type waiver – I think it was – that almost makes Medicaid a block grant. Now this is sort of a simplistic approach to it. But what you see is because Washington is so broke, they are turning back more authority to the states to manage the programs. And so I see in the future that we are going to be able to control the health care delivery, even though it will be federally funded, and we can manage it to eliminate more fraud and do a better job of including private sector solutions. That would be some of my objectives.  Even though we can’t do away with ObamaCare, we can sure make what we have work better,” said Hutchinson.

He added that he does not believe the final chapter has been written yet as he sees ObamaCare heading for a train wreck.

The speech was recorded by Mike McNeill with the Magnolia Reporter and can be seen below.

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Jason Tolbert
Jason Tolbert is the moderator for his opinion blog, The Tolbert Report. He can be reached by e-mail at Jason@TolbertReport.com. Follow him on Twitter: @TolbertReport.