Monday, April 08, 2013

TOP STORY >> Beebe speaks on issues

Leader staff writer

“It’s a no-brainer,” Gov. Mike Beebe said Thursday evening in Cabot about the state joining the federal Medicaid expansion.

Beebe was in Cabot as the keynote speaker for the Open Arms Shelter fundraising dinner, where he talked about being raised by a single mom.

He told The Leader that if the state doesn’t join the Medicaid expansion, “we still have to pay for it. That’s like telling the federal government we want our transportation money sent to California.”

Even though he said the issue is a no-brainer, he added that it will be difficult to get legislative approval.

“We need a three-fourths vote and that’s tough to get even for motherhood and apple pie,” he quipped.

“There is no reason not to do this the way we have it structured,” he said, adding, “We don’t pay, if we can’t afford it.”

The Affordable Care Act expands Medicaid eligibility levels so states can cover low-income adults between 19 and 64 years old and increases the eligibility level to 138 percent of the federal poverty level.

The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the expansion in June 2012 but said it had to be offered to the states as an option, not a mandate.

The Arkansas plan calls for expanding Medicaid by utilizing the private sector to provide health insurance for low-income Arkansans.

The state option would enroll the newly eligible in private insurance plans. Between 200,000 and 250,000 more Arkansans would be covered. The cost of covering these premiums would be covered by the federal government from 2014 to 2016. After that, the federal share would decrease and the state would pick up 10 percent of that cost.

On Friday morning, the state Senate approved taking advantage of federal Medicaid expansion through the private option system of moving eligible people from conventional Medicaid to coverage under the new private insurance offered by health exchanges.

The measure was approved by the Senate 24-9. The enabling legislation needs only a simple majority, but the appropriation to follow will need 3/4ths support, or 27 votes.

The House must also approve both the measures to accept the program and the appropriation bill.

In voting for the expansion Friday, Republican Sen. Jonathan Dismang (R- Searcy), who will be the next Senate leader, said, “What’s inside this bill is the right direction for us to move forward with health care in Arkansas.”

Republican Sens. Jane English (R-North Little Rock) and Eddie Jo Williams (R-Cabot) voted against the bill.

Williams was at the Open Arms event Thursday night, along with House Speaker Davy Carter (R-Cabot). They were recognized by the governor for their hard work.

“It’s been a tough time and they’ve worked long hours, and I’m ready for them to go home,” Beebe joked.

The governor said lawmakers’ attendance at the dinner after long hours spent  at the Legislature shoes their commitment toward preventing child abuse.

Beebe said Carter has shown a lot of “great leadership.” He said speaker of the House was a tough job and “Carter had handled it with grace and wisdom. He is a first class person.”

Before his Open Arms speech, the governor touched on a two other issues with The Leader.
On having his vetoes overridden three times — twice on abortion legislation he didn’t agree with and once on a voter ID bill — the governor said this was the first time Republicans had control of the Legislature since Reconstruction.

Beebe said Southern states have a rather easy time vetoing governors. “It goes back to Reconstruction when there wasn’t a lot of trust in the government. The law just requires a 51 percent vote, a simple majority,” he explained.

The governor added that it was part of the job and there was no animosity.