The Democratic Party says Gov. Asa Hutchinson didn’t go far enough in his announcement yesterday that he’d impose a two-week moratorium on termination of people covered by the private option health insurance plan so that his Department of Human Services could catch up with a backlog of income eligibility checks. He did NOT express any inclination to extend the 10-day deadline in the future nor did he offer help for people already terminated. 

The Democratic Party said in a statement from Chair Vince Insalaco:


“I am encouraged by the moratorium on cancellations granted yesterday by the governor. However, the moratorium would have been entirely unnecessary if Arkansans had been given adequate time to respond to the redetermination notices for their Medicaid, AR Kids First, and private option health care plans.

‘A 30-day deadline to respond to the notice would be more fair than the 10-day deadline the governor “presume[s]” adequate. Ten days is the minimum amount of time allowed by federal law. The Affordable Care Act provides a maximum of 90 days for recipients to respond to a redetermination notices. Arkansans deserve more than ten days.

‘The media’s coverage of this story has shed light on several instances recipients who had their health care plans unfairly cancelled. An estimated 97 percent of the nearly 50,000 pending cancellations are due to a failure to respond to the redetermination letter, which some recipients never received. These cancellations are still pending despite the fact that the Department of Human Services (DHS) was completely unprepared for the increase in call volume and paperwork.

‘Only now that a crisis has arisen has the governor lifted the hiring freeze to add 35 new personnel, repurpose 20 other employees, and has authorized overtime pay for DHS employees working on the Medicaid redetermination. Yet, at his press conference the governor touted the hiring freeze as a money-saver.

‘The governor is not just experiencing a staffing crisis. This is a moral crisis. Cancelling the health care plans of nearly 50,000 Arkansans in the wake of this crisis is unnecessary. As I stated yesterday, these cancellations are more that numbers on a spreadsheet. For many Arkansans the treatment they receive thought their health plans are life-saving.

‘I am also renewing our Call to Action. If you think Arkansans deserve a fair amount of time to comply with the Medicaid redetermination requests call Governor Hutchinson at (501) 682-2345 and tell him to extend the deadline.”

Hutchinson seemed unnerved somewhat at yesterday’s news conference. Understandably. He’s caught between a rock — the red-hots in his own party who don’t want to give working poor health insurance coverage in 10 days, 90 days or ever — and a hard place. The hard place is trying to reduce the number of people served and reducing the size of government without looking like an uncompassionate fence-straddler by trying to preserve the money he desperately needs under Obamacare while appearing to be as unforgiving as possible to the undeserving who can’t provide their own health insurance. (You know, they should be more like legislators and governors who get sweet health insurance from taxpayers at a richly subsidized rate.) If you don’t get my sarcasm: He’s not handling this very well. Either run government well and serve the people who need it efficiently and with compassion or throw in with the Tea Party and kill the damn thing. Sad fact is though, that throwing in with the Tea Party probably would hurt only working poor people, not the governor.