New surgeon general brings political experience to table | Arkansas Blog

New surgeon general brings political experience to table

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HELMET CHAMPION: Dr. Greg Bledsoe.
  • HELMET CHAMPION: Dr. Greg Bledsoe.
I was reminded today that Dr. Greg Bledsoe, Asa Hutchinson's choice as surgeon general, has a past experience dealing with the Arkansas legislature. He was unsuccessful, but it was a valiant cause.

Bledsoe in 2003 supported his mother's legislation (Sen. Cecile Bledsoe was then a representative) to reinstate the law requiring helmets for motorcycle riders. It had been repealed in 1997 and replaced with a law requiring helmets for those under 21. The 2003 bill was killed in committee, despite testimony about research at UAMS that showed, after repeal of the law, an increase in nonhelmeted motorcycle crash admissions, head injury severity, ICU length of stay and financial loss at UAMS.

Bledsoe later wrote a scholarly paper on the subject. He's been a chair of emergency medicine in Alabama and will return to UAMS as an associate professor of emergency medicine as part of the arrangement to bring him home as surgeon general. I've still been unable to get an answer from Hutchinson's staff on whether Bledsoe will get an additional stipend as surgeon general along with the $235,000 faculty pay at UAMS.

I've been more interested in where Bledsoe will fall in encouraging Hutchinson — or discouraging Hutchinson — from backing continuation of the private option version of Medicaid expansion. He'd be a rare med school faculty member who opposed increased funding for Medicaid, given university reliance on government insurance programs. But his mother was a stalwart Obamacare opponent and participated in successful campaigns by a number of Republican legislative candidates who ran against Democratic supporters of the health insurance program. One of the new governor's kinfolk, Sen. Jim Hendren, remarked on Twitter yesterday that there might be a third way forward on Medicaid. This is likely a reference to piling a number of red-meat-conservative add-ons to the existing program. If they are too punitive, however, they could jeopardize indispensable Democratic support and also risk disapproval from the Obama administration.

Again: Hutchinson's day of reckoning on the private option fast approaches, particularly if he wants another $100 million in income tax cuts on top of the $109 million already set to take effect in 2015.

UPDATE: Private option issues remain, but I was pleased to get a Twitter response from Bledsoe to a mention of his past advocacy for motorcycle helmet laws.

 Hey, Max. Great to connect with you via Twitter. For the record, I am still very much in favor of motorcycle helmet laws.

Welcome, home, Dr. Bledsoe.


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