New Arkansas Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson’s push to maintain the private option approach to Medicaid expansion championed by his Democratic predecessor through 2016 narrowly passed in the state Senate in late February and the state House of Representatives in early March. Many conservative Republicans believe the traditional Medicaid program provides poor-quality care and find this option to be more satisfactory, as it forms an individual health insurance marketplace.
Eugene M. Shelby, MD, FACEP, President of the Arkansas chapter of ACEP, said “it was a real battle in the last two sessions in order to get it passed for a lot of political reasons. One of the ways Hutchinson got it done was by also setting up a community of legislatures to look at the overall Medicaid program to see what happens at the end of 2016.”
With the private option, 250,000 low-income people will not lose access to private health insurance plans. These residents are below 138 percent of the poverty level and can now access insurance coverage through plans like BlueCross BlueShield. Since the decision to continue the private option, Arkansas has been able to bring billions of federal dollars into the state economy and, as of early March, nearly 100,000 people have enrolled in Medicaid.
Dr. Shelby believes the expansion will be “undoubtedly good,” reaffirming that hospitals have saved millions in uncompensated care costs.
“We had this in effect for about two and half years now and it has been very beneficial to the medical community, especially to the Arkansas Hospital Association. Hospitals around the state have greatly benefited from it. The amount of uncompensated care has gone down very dramatically and that is possible across the state. So the expansion is definitely a good thing,” he said.