Local & Regional News
9:30 pm
Tue March 19, 2013

State Surgeon General Pushes Medicaid Expansion in Telephone Townhall

Arkansas Surgeon General Dr. Joe Thompson
State Surgeon Gen. Dr. Joe Thompson

State Surgeon General Dr. Joe Thompson praised the Medicaid expansion provisions of the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in a telephonic townhall Tuesday night sponsored by the Arkansas Hospital Association. Whether or not to accept an expansion of the low-income health insurance program to people making up to 138 percent of the poverty level is currently being debated in the state general assembly.

“I think it’s an opportunity to get people the care they need,” Thompson said. “It’s an opportunity to pay hospitals and providers for the care they give. And it’s a real opportunity to assure the health and productivity of our workforce in the future so that Arkansas benefits as Congress intended.”

Hospital Association President Bo Ryall moderated the event, which he said involved “thousands of callers.” The questions of 14 callers were taken during the hour-long presentation, which also included Mark Meadors, Vice-President of Bancorp South Insurance Services, who specializes in employee benefits for companies of all sizes. Meadors, who described himself as fairly conservative, also supports Medicaid expansion because of what he says it will do for businesses.

  “You’re going to see a lot of these employers if this expansion is not done close several of their locations, which would result in laying off a lot of employees, or they’re going to cut back a lot of their employees to part-time,” Meadors said. “You don’t have those people making money to be able to go out and eat, to be able to go out and buy food, eggs, bread, milk, jeans, things for their kids, going out to eat once a week or something like that. So you’re really looking at a trickle-down effect on this.”

Meadors said the Affordable Care Act is the law, no matter how much some might oppose it. “But there are some additional things our legislators need to consider and need to act on to ensure that we are not placing an unfair burden on a lot of Arkansas employers” he said.

Throughout the program, Ryall directed listeners to a pair of websites for more information and to voice support for Medicaid expansion: http://www.arhealthandjobs.com and http://www.hbe.arkansas.gov.