Funding and Republican control were among some of the items addressed by Senators Bruce Maloch and Larry Teague during a recent public town hall meeting.
The event was sponsored by the Arkadelphia Alliance and Area Chamber of Commerce.
The senators were asked what had been the most debated issue they had seen in the upcoming budget session and how it could be resolved.
Maloch noted funding for Medicaid Expansion has been one of the most debated issues in recent years.
“Most bills that we pass take a Senate majority, but appropriation bills require a three-fourths. When we passed what we called the Private Option, it took a majority vote, but then appropriating the funding required a three-fourths and in the Senate it has been right at that three-fourths every year,” said Maloch.
Because there are several seats vacant on the Senate, Maloch said the challenge for this year will be generating enough votes in favor of a measure just to introduce it.
Maloch noted part of the funding for the Affordable Care Act was credited to the reduction of Medicare reimbursement rates.
“I’ve got four hospitals in my Senate District – all of which were already struggling with uncompensated care. Without Medicaid Expansion, even their Medicare reimbursements were going to be reduced. Those hospitals were not going to survive long-term,” Maloch said.
Maloch noted one of the biggest concerns and complaints with Medicaid Expansion is there are people who abuse the program.
According to Maloch, Medicaid Expansion was aimed at people who have jobs, but who may not have access to health insurance through their employer or who can afford to pay it.
Teague, who serves as chair of the joint-budget of the Senate, noted it is a challenge to appropriate funds to various programs.
Turning his attention to funding for healthcare, Teague believes it was the right thing to do.
Looking at the hospitals in his Senate district, Teague noted they are all operating in the black.
The Senators were asked if the shift in the control to the Republican party was good or bad.
“I don’t care what you are as long as you are trying to do the right thing. We may disagree a little bit on what the right thing is, but we’re all working and trying to get business taken care of,” said Teague.
Maloch believes that a two-party system is good to a certain extent.
“Larry and I are going to work with anybody and do what we can. The biggest divide within a Senate is within the Republican Caucus and a lot of that divide goes back to Medicaid Expansion,” Maloch said.