The following is a transcript of Governor Asa Hutchinson's radio column for the weekend of Dec. 11, 2015:
Almost a year ago, I announced my support for a legislative task force to determine the future of the Medicaid program in Arkansas. This Healthcare Task Force is set to make recommendations in the near future.
This taskforce provides the opportunity to create a new and different approach for providing healthcare in this state. We have a responsibility to help those going through challenging times. However, we need to make sure people are motivated to work versus providing incentives for people not to work. We want to provide a safety net; we want to provide health coverage for those making less than 138 percent of the poverty level, but we also want people to move up the economic ladder.
The Healthcare Task Force is hard at work and I am asking the legislators to consider a new strategy and a new plan. It’s called “Arkansas Works.” The brand illustrates what we are trying to achieve—help Arkansans attain jobs and invest in their own healthcare.
This is what I envision for “Arkansas Works.” It is a program that incentivizes people to work, focuses on employer-based insurance, encourages personal responsibility and assures the financial integrity of the program.
People who are capable and able-bodied deserve an opportunity to climb the economic ladder. “Arkansas Works” will be a system that incentivizes people to do just that.
As a state, we cannot build a healthcare system where people are opting out of health insurance provided by their employer. I want to see a greater emphasis on employer-based insurance, not government-based insurance.
A critical element in this discussion is encouraging personal responsibility. Everyone should have some investment in their own healthcare. That being said, there should be consequences for those who are not paying their premiums or failing to take responsibility.
One of the responsibilities of government is to keep an eye on taxpayers’ dollars. We need to make sure providers are doing what they should be doing and that people who need coverage are receiving coverage. And those who are able to make their own way have the resources and motivation to do so without having to rely on government-based healthcare. That’s why program integrity is key.
This is the time for a solution that works for Arkansas. People can take an active role in their own healthcare by getting checkups, eating properly and living a healthier, active lifestyle. I also want our employees to take charge of their health.
As we reform our Medicaid program, I want Arkansas priorities to guide the effort. By working together, we can reduce overall healthcare costs, help people get back to work and feel better about their lives.
With “Arkansas Works” there’s nowhere to go but forward.