Arkansas Health and Jobs Coalition backing Arkansas Works plan

by Steve Brawner ([email protected]) 112 views 

A group of 30 organizations, including AARP, Arkansas Children’s Hospital, and Planned Parenthood, is offering its support to Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s Arkansas Works initiative.

The Arkansas Health and Jobs Coalition was formed in 2013 to support the creation of the private option, which uses federal Medicaid dollars to purchase private health insurance for adults with incomes up to 138% of the federal poverty line. More than 200,000 Arkansans are now covered by the program. It was created in 2013 and reauthorized in 2014 and 2015, but has been controversial since its inception. It ends at the end of 2016.

Arkansas Works is similar to the private option but adds provisions that encourage recipients to use employer-based insurance, requires that they be referred to work training programs, and requires those with incomes of at least 100% of the federal poverty level to pay $19 a month for their insurance premiums.

The group’s chairman, Ray Hanley, president and CEO of Arkansas Foundation for Medical Care, said, “There’s nothing that the governor has laid out in his vision of this that I don’t think this group can get behind.”

The coalition is saying that the private option has reduced Arkansas uninsured rate, that insurance premiums for all Arkansans have been lowered because of the private option, and that removing it would result in a $100 million loss to the state budget. They say the private option has reduced the amount of care hospitals provide to patients who don’t pay, otherwise known as uncompensated care. Hanley said health care providers have been able to invest in facilities and services because of the certainty of payment.

“We want people to know that the Social Security Disability rolls have dropped because of the expanded coverage because there are people that, now they’re able to get health coverage, don’t have to go on disability,” Hanley said. “They continue to work, and they continue to pay taxes. We want to talk about the reduction in uncompensated care. I particularly want to talk about what this has done for infrastructure, out in rural Arkansas, which helps everybody regardless of your payment source.”

Opponents of the private option say it’s an unsustainable expansion of Obamacare that creates a new entitlement and adds to the national debt. They say Arkansas will not be able to afford the price tag when it begins paying 5% of the cost in 2017, a number that rises to 10% by 2020. They say the federal government could increase that percentage even more in the future.

The coalition includes the following members:
– Arkansas Foundation for Medical Care
– Arkansas Medical Society
– Arkansas Public Policy Panel
– Arkansas Nurses Association
– Arkansas Optometric Association
– Arkansas Residential Assisted Living Association
– CareLink
– Community Health Centers of Arkansas
– National Multiple Sclerosis Society
– March of Dimes
– HomeCare Association of Arkansas
– American Heart Association / American Stroke Association
– Planned Parenthood
– Quapaw House Recovery & Wellness Center
– Arkansas Hospital Association
– Mental Health Council of Arkansas
– Arkansas Interfaith Alliance
– Southern Bancorp Community Partners
– Hospice and Palliative Care Association of Arkansas
– Arkansas Education Association
– Arkansas Academy of Family Physicians
– Arkansas Children’s Hospital
– Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families
– Area Agency on Aging
– Arkansas Citizens First Congress
– American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network
– Arkansas Community Action Agencies Association
– The Arkansas Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics
– Alzheimer’s Arkansas
– AARP

Hanley said, “There’s never been a collection of organizations like this that have come together on a public policy issue like this. … Certainly in health care, but I’m not sure in pretty much any issue you see this many diverse organizations come together.”

Those supporters include Planned Parenthood, the pro-abortion access organization that is hardly an ally of the Hutchinson administration. Last year, Hutchinson moved to end the state’s contract with the organization after a series of videos that abortion opponents said showed Planned Parenthood executives selling fetal body parts. Planned Parenthood said the videos were selectively edited and that they mischaracterized the encounters, and it sued the state along with three females. U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker has issued a temporary restraining order against enforcement of the law and has granted class action status to the plaintiffs.

Planned Parenthood has also sued the state over a new law, signed by Hutchinson, prohibiting how the abortion pill can be provided.

Hanley said the coalition involves a wide range of groups and emphasized that the private option/Arkansas Works doesn’t cover abortion.

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