I was happy to read in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette this morning that the Arkansas Department of Human Services is moving ahead to comply with federal directives that employees of health care facilities that receive Medicare and Medicaid money must be vaccinated or else lose federal support. UAMS is also moving forward on this rule, which requires full vaccination of employees by early January if medical or other exemptions aren’t granted.
State law prohibits a vaccination requirement for state employees. Really. The Freedumb Caucus holds the right of a small minority to resist vaccines more important than the health of people at human development centers, the state hospital and the 310-bed psychiatric nursing home known as the Arkansas Health Center.
Governor Hutchinson is walking the political tightrope, as usual. But it could be worse. He opposes mandates, even those with a testing option for those who refuse shots. He’s urged the attorney general to fight the Medicaid rule in court, but he recognizes the damage should the federal rule prevail and Arkansas face the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars, without which the state might be forced to turn 1,000 or so developmentally disabled people out on the streets of Arkadelphia, Booneville, Conway, Jonesboro and Warren?
Hutchinson should welcome the federal rule to insist on sound health practice that prevents COVID outbreaks that health facilities have experienced during the pandemic because of unvaccinated staff. At least he hasn’t called out the National Guard to resist the federal government and keep the peace with the likes of Sens. Bob Ballinger and Trent Garner. These senators say state funding should be cut if the institutions comply with the federal rule. I’m not sure the federal money will flow if the state doesn’t hold up its end of the health finance partnership, in which the state pays around 25 percent of the cost, depending on programs.
Forget money and states rights. Remember that the Arkansas legislative Republican majority is fighting to put severely ill and disabled people at risk because, well, Freedumb!
The Faubusian National Guard reference isn’t exactly a joke. The Oklahoma National Guard leader, under orders from his governor, has refused to comply with the vaccination rule for the military.