August 27, 2014 Edition

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Governor stresses importance
of Private Option to Arkansas

Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe (right) was in Walnut Ridge Monday evening to speak at a fundraiser for Sen. Robert Thompson (left) of Paragould.

John Bland

Governor Mike Beebe came to Walnut Ridge Monday night with a message to convey to Arkansas citizens regarding the Private Option Health Care Act.

The governor spoke at a fundraiser for State Sen. Robert Thompson of Paragould that was hosted, in part, by the Lawrence County Democrats.

"The Private Option has become a major political issue," Gov. Beebe said. "Obamacare (Affordable Care Act) was a congressional decision, a federal decision," he said. "Some politicians are running against the continuance of the Private Option."

The Supreme Court said that individual states had the option of voting for expanded or additional Medicaid funding. He said if Arkansas hadn't voted for the expanded Medicaid option, that the money would have just gone to other states, such as California or New York.

"The Private Option (expanded Medicaid funding) means $100,000 (annually) to your hospital," Beebe said, adding that Sen. Thompson and State Rep. James Ratliff both voted for the expanded Medicaid option, which is voted on annually and requires 75 percent of the legislators to approve.

Out of 35 state senators, 27 of them voted for the option, and 27 votes were needed for it to pass, Beebe said, stressing that Thompson's vote was crucial to its passage. The passage of the Private Option took a bipartisan effort in both the state house and senate, he added.

"You have an obligation ... to explain to others and tell them what's at stake. It is important that we keep our rural hospitals," he said.

Beebe noted that the Private Option means $28 million to UAMS alone and a total of $100 million to healthcare in Arkansas. Without it, Arkansas would have a $100 million hole in the state budget.

This $100 million savings gives tax relief to Arkansans, Beebe said. This tax savings is passed on to taxpayers and businesses, he added.

"Two-hundred thousand people (in Arkansas) now have healthcare who previously didn't have it," said Beebe. These are working people who don't make enough money to pay for health insurance or who aren't offered paid health insurance by their employers, he explained.

With more insured Arkansans, hospitals lose less money, said Beebe. Providing medical treatment to those who are uninsured and cannot pay is a hidden tax or cost, which raises cost for those who can pay, he added.

"Arkansas is number one in the nation in the reduction of people without health insurance," Beebe said.

Due to term limits in Arkansas, which is two four-year terms for governor, Beebe is ineligible for re-election this year.

Besides many local and regional political leaders, attendees at Thompson's fundraiser included Vince Insalaco, chairman of the Arkansas Democratic Party, and Shane Broadway, director of the Arkansas Department of Higher Education. Also present was Thompson's wife, Tori.

John Thomison of Smithville welcomed the crowd and introduced Sen. Thompson.

Sen. Thompson said that he has been privileged to represent Lawrence County over the past eight years. "I have never been more excited about the things going on in Lawrence County." He noted the focus on agribusiness ranging from "peanuts to poultry."

Thompson said that a sad event had occurred on Monday with the announcement of the closing of the Crittenden Regional Hospital in West Memphis. "We have got to make sure that doesn't happen anywhere else in Northeast Arkansas," he said.

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