Governor-elect Asa Hutchinson has named Dr. Gregory Bledsoe to be the state’s next surgeon general. Hutchinson made the announcement Tuesday that Bledsoe, the son of a state senator and chair of an Alabama emergency medical center, will replace Dr. Joe Thompson as the state’s surgeon general.
Hutchinson’s communication director J.R. Davis said the incoming governor is personally familiar with Bledsoe, a graduate of UAMS.
“He’s known Dr. Bledsoe for some time. Dr. Bledsoe is the son of Dr. James Bledsoe and state Senator Cecil Bledsoe. But obviously his resume speaks for itself,” said Davis.
Bledsoe has taught at Johns Hopkins and served as a personal physician during trips to Africa to both former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush
Outgoing Surgeon General Joe Thompson was appointed in 2007 by Democratic Governor Mike Beebe and was the first ever to serve in the position. Thompson has been vocal in legislative hearings about what he found to be significant and worthy benefits of the state’s alteration of Medicaid expansion known as the private option. Thompson will stay on as director of the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement.
Davis said the choice of Bledsoe has nothing to do with whether Hutchinson will support the state’s health plan for over 213,000 Arkansans making up to 138 percent of the poverty line. Bledsoe's mother, state Senator Cecil Bledsoe has been a staunch opponent of the private option. Hutchinson has previously said he will announce in late January whether he will support the continuation of the state’s program that uses Medicaid funds from the Affordable Care Act to purchase private insurance for the poor. Davis said the selection of Bledsoe was not about the private option.
“You know a hire one way or another or an appointment one way or another is not going to change the way he feels about it. He wants to put good people in place and do a good job and that’s exactly what this hire was with Dr. Bledsoe,” said Davis.
Bledsoe has not yet commented on Arkansas’s adaptation of the Affordable Care Act’s medication expansion. The program has to be reauthorized by a three-fourths vote of the legislature every year.