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Hutchinson Pushes For Changes To U.S. Senate Healthcare Plan, No Word If Cotton Supports

Gov. Asa Hutchinson outlines changes he wants made to the Republican healthcare plan in the U.S. Senate.
Jacob Kauffman

As Congress readies for the July recess, governors are among those trying to shape the stalled Senate healthcare bill. Arkansas’s Republican governor wants the state’s Republican  senators to make changes.

He isn’t offering a full rebuke – even saying the U.S. Senate is moving in the right direction - but Gov. Asa Hutchinson says the proposal poses a “big problem” for the state.

“There have to be significant changes in the current draft in order to give states like Arkansas options for our future that we can continue coverage and not have a $500 million per year gap in our economy,” said Hutchinson.

The governor says he believes the current plan does good as well though. He said it cuts the deficit, interferes less with the commercial insurance marketplace, and gives states additional powers.

Hutchinson also outlined four major changes he says are necessary: exempting medically frail populations in traditional Medicaid from per-person caps; putting Medicaid expansion into a block grant; increasing insurance subsidies; and granting states greater regulatory powers over Medicaid.

Hutchinson warned the existing plan imperils the current order.

“The state has got difficult choices to face. It either has to reduce the expanded Medicaid coverage or we have to cut costs in the traditional Medicaid program. That includes children, elderly, and people with disabilities. Or it could be a combination of cuts to both. Or we could increase taxes,” he said. “The result is the Medicaid coverage will be reduced if the current Senate version is adopted.”    

Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas helped write the Senate plan. Hutchinson said they’ve been in touch, but isn’t saying whether Cotton supports any changes.

UPDATE 2:41 p.m. Sen. John Boozman's office confirms that talks with the governor have taken place but is refraining at this point from taking a specific position on Hutchinson's proposals.

"Senator Boozman values Governor Hutchinson’s input. We have an open line of communication with the Governor. He has presented us with his concerns and Senator Boozman and Cotton been discussing those with Senate leadership. Senator Boozman and his colleagues are continuing to meet this week to try to overcome their differences and revise the plan. There are lots of moving parts at the moment, so he doesn’t want to get ahead of the discussions, but he hopes though that these yield a revised version that can be sent to CBO by the end of the week."

Senator Cotton office did not reply to a request for comment. This story will be updated.

Jacob Kauffman is a former news anchor and reporter for KUAR.
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