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Arkansas Governor Expects 'Slower and More Thoughtful' Process On Healthcare Moving Forward

Governor Asa Hutchinson
Karen Tricot Steward / KUAR News

After being called to the White House earlier this week to discuss healthcare, Governor Asa Hutchinson says the Trump administration appears to be reaching out in a broader way for input on the future of the nation's healthcare system.

"There's going to be a slower and more thoughtful process coming up. What we saw in the Senate last week was a bill that did not go through the committee process and did not have hearings. It was limited and it failed to pass. And so now I hope that you will see... broad coalitions come together," Hutchinson tells KUAR News.

"The fact that they have not given up on reform is encouraging. Because you think about where we are right now. Both Democrats and Republicans agree changes have to be made and the current system is really not sustainable in the sense of long-term costs and the fact that insurers are pulling out of markets. Not in Arkansas, but in other states it's having a much greater impact," said Hutchinson.

However, Hutchinson says he does have concerns about President Trump's threat to withdraw cost-sharing from insurance companies if no healthcare bill is passed. Cost-sharing creates a healthcare fund that covers co-payments and deductibles for low-income enrollees.

"That would be very problematic. That is like withdrawing one little element of the Affordable Care Act... without having a comprehensive reform," said Hutchinson.

The governor emphasized that he thinks Arkansas is in better shape than many other states with regard to healthcare.

"In Arkansas, we've got a much more stable insurance market. We've got companies that are given choices. So the consumer has an option as to where they go with insurance and the increases, even though still too high, are less than some of the 30 and 40 percent increases we see across the country," said Hutchinson.

Meanwhile, state officials announced Thursday that the head of a Florida health insurance exchange that has worked to provide an alternative to healthcare.gov has been hired to direct the agency in charge of Arkansas's Medicaid program.

Rose Murray Naff will take over this month as director of the Department of Human Services' Medical Services Division.

Naff will redesign the Medical Services Division to prepare for several planned changes, according to a news release. Those changes include moving about 60,000 Arkansans off the expanded part of the state's Medicaid program, called Arkansas Works.

Karen Tricot Steward was a News Anchor, Reporter and Content Development Director for UA Little Rock Public Radio.
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