Friday, April 15, 2016

EDITORIAL >> Farrer goes the distance

Rep. Joe Farrer (R-Austin) has seen the light: Farrer, who previously opposed expanding Medicaid for 265,000 poor Arkansans, now says he will vote for Arkansas Works, the governor’s version of the so-called private option.

“It’s all in the math,” Farrer told The Leader on Tuesday. Rejecting the bill will mean a $350 million hole in the state’s budget for 2018. Expect huge cuts for education, highways and other programs if Arkansas Works, which is almost entirely funded by the federal government, is rejected.

Farrer voted against the private option three years ago, when the costs and benefits were hypothetical, he said. “Now it’s a business decision. I’m supporting it to help get the money,” said Farrer, who was previously chief executive officer at North Metro Medical Center and is now in private practice as a physical therapist.

He said that 70 percent of all births in the state are Medicaid births, and they need to be paid for. Without Arkansas Works, costs for traditional Medicaid would go up 6 to 8 percent. The cost of indigent care would rise dramatically.

Funding Arkansas Works requires a supermajority — 75 percent — in both chambers. In the House, that’s 75 votes. In the Senate, with 35 members, that’s 27 votes. Farrer is a key swing vote in the House, where the bill has enough support for passage, but it still lacks a supermajority in the Senate.

Rep. Camille Bennett (D-Lonoke) says there’s nothing the General Assembly can do to change the Affordable Care Act. Arkansans will to have to pay for indigent care without it, so they might as well take the money from Washington and fund Arkansas Works. Tell your legislators to vote yes.