LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Arkansas’ Republican governor said Tuesday he backs a revived effort to repeal former President Barack Obama’s health care law, and the state’s two GOP senators said they also support the legislation.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson said the legislation gaining momentum in the U.S. Senate to replace much of the law with block grants to states addresses concerns he raised that past repeal efforts would have shifted too much cost to the states. Hutchinson said he believes the latest legislation would give Arkansas and other states more flexibility than repeal legislation that failed earlier this summer.
“I see this bill as the best and last opportunity to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which is the wrong direction for America,” Hutchinson told reporters at the state Capitol. “I also see this as covering the major points that I’ve advocated for during the last six months.”
More than 300,000 people are covered through Arkansas’ hybrid Medicaid expansion under the federal health care law. Under the program, the state uses Medicaid money to purchase private insurance for low-income residents. Arkansas has asked the federal government for permission to move 60,000 people off the program, and to impose work requirements on some other participants.
Hutchinson said the new proposal would allow Arkansas to continue the program, but said the block grant money could also be used to cover some uncompensated care costs.
In addition to cutting and reshaping Medicaid, the latest repeal legislation would let states set their own coverage health requirements, allow insurers to boost premiums on people with serious medical conditions and end Obama’s mandates that most Americans buy insurance and that companies offer coverage to workers.
The state’s two Republican senators, John Boozman and Tom Cotton, also said through their offices that they backed the latest repeal proposal. The two lawmakers had supported previous repeal efforts.
“Senator Boozman supports the Graham-Cassidy bill because it provides flexibility to the states, empowering Arkansas to choose the best method to meet the health care needs of its citizens,” Boozman spokeswoman Sara Lasure said in an email. “It also repeals the individual and employer mandates that have harmed families and business owners.”
Cotton spokeswoman Caroline Rabbitt said the lawmaker believes the proposal “would be a vast improvement on Obamacare and if it comes to the floor he intends to vote for it.”
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