This week, I held my first town hall as governor since I was elected Governor. The town hall was at Central Baptist College in Conway. I was joined by several legislators, local leaders and fellow Arkansans to discuss the future of healthcare in our state and to listen. Town halls are a part of the history of our country, and I love the tradition.
It was especially important because I wanted to give people an opportunity to personally ask me questions regarding Arkansas Works ahead of the April 6th special session. Good points were made from people on both sides of this important issue, and it provided me with important insights. Overall, it was a great experience.
This has been an ongoing debate. The private option in Arkansas, by law, will end in December 2016. The question is, what do we do then? The answer for our state is "Arkansas Works," which makes substantial, conservative changes to the current program by emphasizing work opportunities, personal responsibility and encouraging employer-based insurance.
Medicaid is a safety net for those who are going through tough times. But ultimately, those who are able-bodied and are able to work should be working. If you're not working, you should be in job training.
A woman from Pottsville -- who has a 14-year-old son that's been on the developmentally disabled waiting list for years -- spoke up about her concerns from the perspective of a mother and educator. She would like to see the waiting list reduced, but without having companies cut benefits to recipients.
I agree finding solutions to reducing the developmentally disabled waitlist is important. That's why, under my savings plan, we will address this by moving those who have been on the list the longest off that list. And I'm committed to continue reducing the waiver waitlist.
Another audience member asked if it would be possible for Arkansas to get federal waivers for the program changes. After speaking with Health and Human Services Secretary Burwell last month, I am confident we can get these waivers for many of the elements outlined in Arkansas Works.
I was even asked if our state could afford the Arkansas Works program, and the short answer is, yes. Based on the Stephens Group report, the program will actually save Arkansas money over the next five years, while under traditional Medicaid, our state could soon face a major financial pitfall.
Arkansas Works will help us create savings and allow us to continue funding other important areas throughout our state. We have a responsibility to manage the Medicaid program effectively and implement much-needed reforms to make it sustainable.
Logical, common sense approaches that fit our state's needs have guided the development of Arkansas Works. That's why hearing directly from the people of Arkansas and listening to their ideas is one of the best ways to accomplish these goals and guide this debate going into the special session.