Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Arkansas re-thinks Medicaid expansion

See details in this from today's Huffington Post.  The headline is "Republicans Working to Strip Health Coverage from 85,000 people in Arkansas."  Here's an excerpt that explains what is afoot and the interesting political coalitions for and against:
The “private option” expansion plan, which squeezed through the Arkansas Senate last April with one spare vote, requires another 75-percent vote from both houses of the legislature to renew benefits past the end of the fiscal year. However, after Democratic state Senator Paul Bookout, who voted in favor of expansion, resignedlast August over an ethics violation and state Sen. Missy Irvin's (R) last-minute switch to oppose the expansion, the state Senate stands short of the votes it needs to renew the expansion. Now, a group of conservative Republicans, including state senator John Cooper (R), who replaced Bookout in a special election, are fighting to block the program’s funding during next week's legislative session. 
Prior to the conservative schism over the program's renewal, Arkansas' milestone implementation of the Medicaid expansion sparked national attention as it spearheaded the effort to combine broadening Medicaid with privatizing it, allowing for thousands of poor Arkansans to access health benefits. Arkansas' middle-ground expansion strategy paved the way for other GOP-dominated states, like Ohio and Florida, to eye similar proposals after opposing a straight Medicaid expansion through the federal government.
The Associated Press quoted Davy Carter, a Republican who is Speaker of the Arkansas House.  According to HuffPo, Carter is confident that Arkansas will re-authorize the Medicaid expansion.   Here's the AP quote:

Do we need to tweak some things here and there? Maybe… I think we'll talk about areas in which we can do better and I'm certainly open to that, but backing up at this point and pulling up on the state, I'm not interested in that. I don't think the General Assembly is interested in that. I still think we're going to pass it.  
HuffPo says that Arkansas officials say 100,000 residents of the state will have signed up for the program by the time the Arkansas legislature re-convenes February 10.

Maybe the Arkansas legislators need to read this post about this story on the fiscal traumas of rural hospitals where Medicaid has not been expanded.

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