LITTLE ROCK, AR - Governor Mike Beebe urged the state legislature to expand Medicaid coverage to another 250,000 Arkansans.
He pitched the idea in his State of the State speech, for the first time, to a majority Republican General Assembly.
There were no secrets and no surprises in the final State of the State address Mike Beebe will give as Arkansas governor.
Beebe told the joint session of the House and Senate that expanding Medicaid will not only provide an additional 250,000 Arkansans with health insurance, but it will also lower the cost of treating those without insurance and prevent the closing of rural hospitals.
"That doesn't need to happen. Money is available; it's our decision whether to use it,” Beebe said. “Expansion of Medicaid can keep open those hospitals and keep them operational."
While Medicaid expansion is something the governor is certainly pushing for, there are still many legislators who need convincing.
"I think it would be a very tough sell right now for any kind of expansion plan," Bruce Westerman says.
House Majority Leader Bruce Westerman says he's looking at shoring up the current Medicaid shortfall of $138-million dollars, not expanding it.
"I hope people will reserve judgment on calling us partisan just because we're exploring the issues and looking at different alternatives and bringing something new to the table," he says.
Beebe looked out over a majority Republican general assembly for the first time today. He urged, regardless of which party is in charge, to not let Washington-style politics "poison the pot" here.
"Arkansas cannot change the way things are done in DC but we can continue to set the example of men and women with differing views still come together in the best interest of our citizens," he said
"I agree with that completely,” Michael Lamoureux said. “I've often thought that when they want to give us advice it's a bit humorous. If anything they could take advice from what we do here."
As the session starts, both parties seem ready to work together.Full text of the Governor's address