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Arkansas private option at risk despite success

Incoming state leaders say private Medicaid expansion costs too much

The pioneering private Medicaid expansion option that originated in Arkansas is on the chopping block despite having already lowered costs, reported the Associated Press.

Arkansas became the first state to use Medicaid funds to buy private insurance for consumers eligible for the state-federal health program, and about 213,000 Arkansas residents obtained health insurance as a result, the AP said. 

However, incoming state Sen. Scott Flippo (R)--who is replacing state Sen. John Burris (R), one of the private option architects--doesn't support the private option, believing it costs too much money and isn't viable for the long term, according to Healthcare Finance News.

Early data shows that Arkansas' private option is successfully lowering costs as fewer uninsured patients are using hospital services. A survey from the Arkansas Hospital Association and Arkansas Chapter of the Healthcare Financial Management Association found that the number of uninsured hospitalized patients with no source of payment fell by 46 percent in the first half of 2014.

The survey also found a 35 percent decrease in uninsured emergency department visits and a 36 percent drop in uninsured outpatient clinic visits.

"The survey completes a picture showing that the (Arkansas Private Option) is successfully doing what it was intended to do," the AHA said in the survey.

What's more, the AHA said Arkansas has had the biggest decrease in the country in its uninsured rate, dropping from 22 percent in 2013 to 12.4 percent in June, HFN noted. That's why the AHA is pushing for the program to remain in place.

Despite this success, newly elected Republicans, including incoming Gov. Asa Hutchinson, are looking to kill the program--though the new governor told the AP he won't make a decision until late January.

Hutchinson says he will analyze the private option, which must be reauthorized by the legislature every year to "determine whether the program should be terminated or continued," FierceHealthPayer previously reported. Continuing the program requires a three-fourths vote in both the state House and Senate, the AP said.

To learn more:
- read the AP article
- read the Healthcare Finance News article
- here's the AHA/HFMA survey

Related Articles:
Medicaid expansion rollbacks could bode an ill omen for hospitals
Midterm elections lower chances of Medicaid expansion
Private Medicaid expansion survives in Arkansas--for now
Arkansas first to use private Medicaid expansion