Gov. Asa Hutchinson delivered a fine speech Thursday when he finally shared his plans for the future of Arkansas’ unique — and successful — private option health insurance program.
The new governor, speaking at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, hit the right notes in recognizing the health care providers who do much of the heavy lifting in caring for sick Arkansans, the importance of the program to thousands who have health insurance for the first time and the benefit that it’s been to hospitals around the state. As Hutchinson noted, Arkansas hospitals reported a decline of $69 million in uncompensated care during the first half of 2014 compared with the first six months of 2013.
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Hutchinson also demonstrated flashes of wit, saying at the beginning, “I am delighted that there are a few people interested in this topic.” And at the end of his address, his delivery of the line “I notice that there was not resounding applause at any point during the speech” did generate hearty applause and a few chuckles.
So now the governor is asking the Legislature, the majority of whose members share his political party affiliation, to reach that 75 percent “super majority” needed to reauthorize the private option through the end of 2016.
And he’s asking lawmakers to create a Health Reform Task Force to find “an alternative health coverage model” for those Arkansans now using the private option, a model both compassionate and cost-effective. The task force is to do this by the end of this year, somehow finding solutions that have not been previously considered.
So what did we learn Thursday? We learned that Asa Hutchinson can turn a phrase or two, such as: “We are Arkansans. And we look out for each other.”
And we learned he has a sense of humor. We suspect he’s going to need it.