Hutchin­son joins Trump D.C. health care ses­sion

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NORTHWEST ARKANSAS - MICHAEL R. WICKLINE

Gov. Asa Hutchin­son and other gover­nors were sum­moned to the White House on Mon­day to dis­cuss op­tions with Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s ad­min­is­tra­tion for im­prov­ing the health care sys­tem and re­duc­ing longterm costs for the state and across the na­tion, the gov­er­nor said Mon­day.

The call for Hutchin­son to at­tend what he de­scribed in a writ­ten state­ment as “a work­ing ses­sion” at the White House meant the Repub­li­can gov­er­nor couldn’t at­tend events Mon­day morn­ing in Ben­tonville for an emerg­ing lead­ers pro­gram and in Siloam Springs for a Sim­mons Foods fa­cil­ity rib­bon cut­ting, said Hutchin­son spokesman J.R. Davis.

Davis said he didn’t have de­tails about which other gover­nors and Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials at­tended.

The Associated Press re­ported that Hutchin­son joined Ari­zona Gov. Doug Ducey and Wis­con­sin Gov. Scott Walker, both Repub­li­cans, for talks on Mon­day

with Health and Hu­man Ser­vices Sec­re­tary Tom Price and U.S. Sen. Bill Cas­sidy, a Repub­li­can from Louisiana.

A full list of at­tend­ing gover­nors was not im­me­di­ately avail­able.

Hutchin­son said in his writ­ten state­ment that “gover­nors have a hands-on per­spec­tive, and I ap­pre­ci­ate the White House’s ac­knowl­edge­ment of the im­por­tance of our view­point and their will­ing­ness to lis­ten.

“It was a pro­duc­tive work­ing ses­sion, and I am en­cour­aged that there is a new com­mit­ment to find a so­lu­tion that is in­clu­sive of the gover­nors,” Arkansas’ gov­er­nor said.

Cas­sidy told Politico that ev­ery­one in at­ten­dance was seek­ing a “path for­ward” on health care.

The meet­ing in­volv­ing the gover­nors and the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion came on the heels of the Repub­li­can-con­trolled Se­nate’s fail­ure last week to find at least 50 votes to ap­prove leg­is­la­tion to re­peal and re­place the fed­eral Pa­tient Pro­tec­tion and Af­ford­able Care Act or for the so-called skinny re­peal.

U.S. Sen. John McCain, a Repub­li­can from Ari­zona, cast the de­cid­ing vote Fri­day morn­ing against the “skinny re­peal” that would have elim­i­nated the man­date for in­di­vid­u­als to buy in­surance, sus­pended a re­quire­ment for busi­nesses to pro­vide em­ployee in­surance, de­layed a tax on med­i­cal de­vices, and de­nied fund­ing to Planned Par­ent­hood for a year. McCain sub­se­quently called for the Se­nate to work with both par­ties on a new pro­posal.

But the White House is in­sist­ing that the Se­nate re­sume ef­forts to re­peal the Af­ford­able Care Act.

A plan pro­posed by Cas­sidy and U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., would keep most of the Af­ford­able Care Act’s taxes ex­cept the med­i­cal de­vice tax, send fed­eral health care funds to the states in block grants, elim­i­nate the re­quire­ment for in­di­vid­u­als to buy in­surance, and main­tain pro­tec­tions for peo­ple with pre-ex­ist­ing con­di­tions, ac­cord­ing to Politico.

Two weeks ago, Hutchin­son said he wor­ried that re­worked health care leg­is­la­tion in the Se­nate rep­re­sented “a cost shift to the states.” He also op­posed phas­ing out the Af­ford­able Care Act’s en­hanced fund­ing for Med­i­caid ex­pan­sion, which cov­ers about 300,000 low-in­come Arkansans. He cred­ited the Med­i­caid ex­pan­sion, known as Arkansas Works, with help­ing hold down pre­mi­ums in the mar­ket for in­di­vid­ual in­surance cov­er­age.

The fed­eral gov­ern­ment paid for the en­tire Med­i­caid ex­pan­sion pro­gram from 2014-16, and the state is pay­ing 5 percent of the cost of the pro­gram this year. Un­der cur­rent fed­eral law, the state’s tab will rise to 10 percent of the cost of the pro­gram in 2020.

A full list of at­tend­ing gover­nors was not im­me­di­ately avail­able.

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