LITTLE ROCK — Fresh from a trip to Washington, D.C., where he joined other governors in meetings with President Donald Trump and key members of his administration, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Tuesday he is confident that Arkansas’ Medicaid expansion program will continue.
Also Tuesday, Attorney General Leslie Rutledge released a statement after meeting with Trump and other attorneys general at the White House.
“It is important that Arkansas understands that I expect Arkansas Works to continue,” Hutchinson told reporters at the state Capitol. “I expect it to be strengthened in terms of reform, and I expect that it will produce cost savings that will help both the federal government and the state to manage the health-care access that is so important.”
The program, commonly known until this year as the private option, is Arkansas’ alternative to the expansion of state Medicaid rolls envisioned in the federal Affordable Care Act. It provides government-subsidized health insurance, mostly paid for by the federal government, to about 330,000 low-income Arkansans.
Hutchinson, who met during his trip with Health and Human Services Secretary Thomas Price, said he expects the Trump administration to release an outline of its plan for the future of Medicaid expansion in six to eight weeks. Arkansas is one of 32 states that have accepted federal funding under the Medicaid expansion provisions of the ACA.
The governor said he expects Arkansas to receive flexibility to impose restrictions on the program such as a work requirement and a reduction of the maximum income level for eligibility from 138 percent to 100 percent of the federal poverty level.
Asked about Trump’s first month as president, Hutchinson said, “I think his appointments have been excellent. I’ve met his cabinet. I like what they’re doing. They’re working hard. I like his Supreme Court nominee. I think he’s got a good team that’s in place. I’m encouraged that he listens to them.”
Hutchinson also acknowledged that Trump is “meteoric” and “unpredictable.”
“He’s made some missteps in terms of his first executive order on foreign visitors to our country,” he said. “That was not well done, and there’s a cost to that. But he’s learning, as he goes through that, the importance of a team and how he’s got to rely upon his leadership in Congress to get some of his proposals done as well.”
Trump met Tuesday with members of the National Association of Attorneys General, including Rutledge.
“It was an honor to meet with President Trump and hear directly about his vision for America and the priorities of his first 100 days,” Rutledge said in a statement.
“The president understands the many challenges facing our country, including the need to reduce the regulatory burdens on small businesses as well as working collaboratively with state and local officials to reduce crime and combat the prescription drug abuse epidemic in our communities. I look forward to working with the Trump administration and my colleagues to help improve the lives of all Americans,” she said.