Senator Jim Hendren’s SB96, the “Private Option” Bill
Senator Hendren appeared on 96.5 The Voice Monday morning about his bill SB 96, “To Create the Arkansas Health Reform Act of 2015” that seeks to “end the Private Option and set up a Task Force to formulate future healthcare reforms. At publication time, SB96 was to be heard on Wednesday morning at 8am in Room 272/State Capitol by the Senate Public Health, Welfare & Labor Committee.
Jason Cline from The Morning Jam asked Senator Hendren to respond to several concerns that grassroots activists raised on social media over the weekend after Governor Hutchinson’s healthcare speech last Thursday. In that conversation, Senator Hendren made these key points:
- The bill doesn’t reauthorize the PO. If the Legislature takes no further action, the bill ensures the PO is gone at the end of 2016.
- The task force needs a “hard deadline to produce results,” and the bill does that.
- Senator Hendren has “received assurances there will be fair representation of opposing viewpoints” on the task force.
- Addressing the entire Medicaid program is needed because it is a “tremendous strain on the state.” The bill will allow the task force time it needs to “prepare a set of block grants” and exemptions to the Medicaid program.
- “The only part of the bill that does anything is Section 5,” which “directs DHS to prepare plan amendments so that when the PO expires, the expansion population goes away.”
- “We studied the state’s income tax data and determined that maximum enrollment can only be around 250,000.”
Senator Hendren said the “key” is to end the Medicaid expansion population and that, to do so Arkansas must:
1. Have a definite end date for the Private Option
2. Change Arkansas’ Medicaid program so the expansion population doesn’t automatically revert “back” to Medicaid when the Private Option goes away.
He was adamant that the bill he filed must address both objectives, “or I won’t file it.”
Governor Asa Hutchinson will appear on Dave Elswick’s show (96.5 The Voice) on Tuesday, January 27 at 2:30 to discuss the issue on air.