Gov. Asa Hutchinson was part of a small group of governors invited to the White House over the weekend to visit with Trump Administration officials about how to move forward on health care legislation.
GOP leaders in the U.S. Senate have failed to succeed on legislation geared to repeal and replace Obamacare. The latest failure came Thursday, with just 49 of 52 Senate Republicans voting for the measure.
Healthcare is tied to at least one-sixth of the U.S. economy and has become a serious problem for Republicans who have promised solutions and to remove Obamacare. The problem is that more than 22 million people now receive healthcare insurance through the program, and it has become increasingly popular the last several years. Hundreds of thousands of Arkansans receive health insurance through the state expanded Medicaid program, Arkansas Works, which is funded by Obamacare.
Politico was one of several media outlets to report Monday that several governors met privately during the weekend at the White House. GOP governors were expected to attending or were invited to attend included Gov. Hutchinson, Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, and Gov. Phil Bryant of Mississippi. It was also reported that Seema Verma, a top Medicaid official for the Administration, and White House legislative director Marc Short were part of the meetings.
Also part of the meetings were Tom Price, secretary of Health and Human Services, and U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La.
Late Monday, Gov. Hutchinson’s office confirmed he was part of the weekend meeting.
“Over the weekend, I was called to a working session at the White House with a small group of governors to discuss options with the Administration to improve our healthcare system and to reduce long-term costs for our state and nationally,” noted the Hutchinson statement. “Governors have a hands on perspective, and I appreciate the White House’s acknowledgement of the importance of our viewpoint and their willingness to listen. It was a productive working session, and I am encouraged that there is a new commitment to finding a solution that is inclusive of the governors.”
In a brief interview Friday with Talk Business & Politics, Gov. Hutchinson suggested that Congress needs to “work together” to keep the process moving forward.
“There is no question that the status quo is not acceptable. Both Democrats and Republicans say we’ve got to make changes. I think what this means is that you come back and you’ve got to work together to see what kind of agreement you can have on the changes that are needed,” Hutchinson said Friday. “From an Arkansas perspective, I don’t want them to give up on reform in Washington, because we need to have more tools in this state to manage this population, to cut the costs curve, and to give us the flexibility that’s needed.”
Gov. Hutchinson said he also is frustrated with a lack of progress on reform.
“I think everybody’s frustrated with it, whether you’re in Washington as a senator, or whether you are out as a recipient or a provider of healthcare. What the governors have expressed is, ‘We’ve got to make changes. You need to listen to the governors. We deal with this every day.’ … There’s got to be a better process. Obviously the process that we have just gone through didn’t work. I make the case that if you’ve got 10 changes you want to make in the Affordable Care Act, and we can agree with others that four (can be) accomplished, let’s get those four changes done, and then we’ll come back for more.”
It remains unclear how Congress will proceed on the issue. President Trump has publicly denounced Republican efforts, suggesting they will be “total quitters” if they don’t keep pushing for legislation.
U.S. Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., issued a statement suggesting no immediate action is in the works.
“Until somebody shows us a way to get that elusive 50th vote, I think it’s over,” said Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, the third-ranking Republican. “Maybe lightning will strike and something will come together but I’m not holding my breath.”