With the funding secured for the next fiscal year, GOP gubernatorial candidate Asa Hutchinson says he will support the private option because it is the "law of the land," but he promised reforms to the controversial program, which he labeled a "pilot project."
In a lengthy interview with "Talk Business & Politics" host Roby Brock for this Sunday's TV program on KATV Ch. 7, Hutchinson said if he's elected Governor, he will closely evaluate the private option to see if it is "the right path of the future."
"Now the dust is settled. We know that they have funded the private option. We know that there are no short-term budgetary impacts on it," Hutchinson said. "So in 2015, just like [Rep.] Kim Hammer said - who changed his vote from a no to a yes - he said now we're going to see if it works. I view this as a pilot project. In fact, it will be a smaller pilot project with the limitations on the marketing aspect of it."
Hutchinson said it was crucial to monitor the long-term costs of the program and whether or not it accomplishes the policy goals outlined. He also said that voters could expect "continued efforts" aimed at reforming the program from his administration.
"The private option was a start. The whole design is reform. You can expect more reform of the private option and health care policy in Arkansas to make it unique to this state and make it work for this state. And, a key criteria for me is I want incentives for people to work, and not incentives for people not to work," he said.
In the interview that will air on Sunday, Hutchinson discussed some of the reforms he expected to review.
When asked if he was supportive of the private option as the policy of the state of Arkansas, Hutchinson replied, "Oh, sure. It's the law."
"And our legislature by two-thirds, or three-fourths vote approved it and so the debate is ended for now. But the debate will continue. So I support the pilot project that you see in place now and we want to see how it works," Hutchinson restated. "I will evaluate it just like all the other legislators will in terms of what's the long-term cost impact and what's the benefit we're getting from the state, and does it promote work and encouragement to work in our society."
Hutchinson's interview airs on "Talk Business & Politics" on Sunday morning at 9 a.m. on KATV Channel 7. In the interview, he also discusses expectations for his primary challenge from Curtis Coleman, clarifies his comments regarding the AEA teachers' union, and explains why his tax reform plan will make Arkansas more competitive with surrounding states.