Two former Arkansas governors will reflect on their own administrations next Monday during a discussion about healthcare. Governors Mike Huckabee and Mike Beebe will speak on health and health care during an event celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement.
The center is partnering with the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service for the event. Gov. Asa Hutchinson will welcome the governors, making this event a rare gathering of the three most recent Arkansas governors.
Skip Rutherford, dean of the school, says it was an easy decision to partner up with ACHI and agree to host the event.
"Particularly as a school of public service, it’s important to talk about events that have a significant impact on the people of our state, and our region, and our country," Rutherford said.
The debate will be moderated by Dr. Joe Thompson, the president and CEO for the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement. Over the past 20 years, Thompson says the center has been involved in health efforts, such as cutting tobacco use and tackling obesity. He also discussed the state’s graduated driver licensing program which places restrictions on young drivers like on limits nighttime driving and banning cell phone use.
Thompson was the chief health officer under Huckabee and state surgeon general under Beebe. The governors will talk about some of the challenges they faced trying to pass health initiatives during their tenures leading the state.
“Both governors Huckabee and Beebe, they had the general assembly, at least in parts of their tenure, in control of the opposite party," Thompson said. "So they had to reach across party lines and find bipartisan support for initiatives that they wanted to undertake."
In Rutherford’s opinion, both governors have made a lasting impact on the state, healthwise, even if that may not have been their original plan.
"I think you could ask each of them if they thought upon entering the governor’s office, if their legacy would be healthcare, my guess is that both would have said no. But I think, when you look back on the terms of Mike Huckabee and Mike Beebe, healthcare is at the top of the list," Rutherford said.
The most recent Arkansas Poll, conducted by the University of Arkansas, found that healthcare is the most important issue to Arkansans, replacing the economy, which was number one last year. When asked about the poll, Thompson said healthcare affects people directly and indirectly.
"It hits folks right at home when they are the ones that need specialized services or have a condition that needs a specialized knowledge," Thompson said.
Though Thompson says the focus of the forum are the health-related successes of each administration and of the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement, there will be an opportunity for attendees to ask questions during the event.
The evening will also include the presentation of the Dr. Tom Bruce Arkansas Health Impact award, which celebrates those who "have had a positive impact on the health of Arkansans through their service and leadership."
The forum takes place 6 p.m. on Monday, December 3rd at the Statehouse Convention Center. The event is free to the public.