Category Archives: Health care

Can work be added to Arkansas Works?

Cindy Gillespie is director of the Department of Human Services.
By Steve Brawner
© 2017 by Steve Brawner Communications, Inc.

Next week, legislators will meet in special session to change the Arkansas Works program to encourage its recipients to work for their benefits and, eventually, no longer need them.

Changing the program will be reasonably easy. Changing the recipients will be much harder.

Arkansas Works, formerly known as the private option, uses federal Medicaid dollars to buy private insurance for 311,000 Arkansans with incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $17,000 for an individual. The state pays 5 percent of the program’s cost this year and 10 percent by 2020. The federal government pays the rest.

It was created through the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare, which expanded Medicaid. Many Republican-leaning states declined to participate. Arkansas instead obtained a waiver from the Obama administration allowing it to buy private insurance rather than simply enroll recipients in Medicaid.

Reform instead of repeal and replace

By Steve Brawner
© 2017 by Steve Brawner Communications, Inc.

After the American Health Care Act failed in the House Friday, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said this: “I don’t know what else to say other than Obamacare is the law of the land. It’s going to remain the law of the land until it’s replaced. We did not have quite the votes to replace this law, and so, yeah, we’re going to be living with Obamacare for the foreseeable future.”

For seven years, Ryan and other Republicans, including Arkansas’ congressional delegation, have said Obamacare is ruining the health care system – and by extension, the rest of the country. But once they gained control of everything in Washington, they obviously did not have a replacement ready, spent a total of 18 days debating a very bad one, held one vote and then announced their focus will now be on tax reform, though now they’re talking about revisiting health care again.

How can an unhealthy nation fix health care?

By Steve Brawner
© 2017 by Steve Brawner Communications, Inc.

You may have noticed that a while back, a Democratic president and a Democratic-led Congress tried to fix health care, and while more people do have health insurance, health care costs are still rising. You also may have noticed that a Republican president and a Republican-led Congress now promise to fix the fix. It won’t work either.

The truth is that no health care reform can create an affordable system in an unhealthy nation.

Modern American life, in fact, is profoundly unhealthy. Americans eat too much and eat the wrong things: too much sugar, fast “food” and processed conglomerations with unpronounceable ingredients; too few fruits, vegetables and healthy protein sources. We stay up too late bombarding our brains with flashing electronic lights rather than getting the sleep we need. We drive everywhere, take elevators up one flight of stairs, and spend most of our days sitting, which research has shown is very bad for us. We are addicted to all kinds of drugs – caffeine, opiates, alcohol. Then we try to fix all of this, quickly, with short bursts of exercise that often injure us, and with diets we cannot maintain, and with pills that have harmful side effects.

Drinking from a fire hose to set pot rules

By Steve Brawner
© 2016 by Steve Brawner Communications, Inc.

When you go to school to be a doctor or a pharmacist or a lawyer, you have to learn how to drink from a fire hose – do a lot of work and absorb a lot of information quickly while bearing important responsibilities.

Good thing that pretty much describes the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission, the appointees who will have a little more than a month to create rules for the growers and dispensers authorized by the Medical Marijuana Amendment, which voters passed in November.

The five members of the commission – which includes two doctors, a pharmacist and a lawyer – held their first get-to-know-each-other meeting Dec. 12. About all they otherwise accomplished was electing a chairperson, Dr. Ronda Henry-Tillman, a surgical oncologist, and agreeing to meet again on Dec. 20.