Friday, April 22, 2016

Arkansas governor saves Medicaid in state with biggest percentage-point drop in uninsured

Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson "Thursday effectively saved Arkansas' first-in-the-nation hybrid Medicaid expansion by voiding part of a budget bill that would have ended the subsidized insurance for more than 250,000 poor people," reports The Associated Press. Hutchinson "vetoed a provision in the Medicaid budget that ordered a Dec. 31 end to the program, which uses federal funds to purchase private insurance for the poor." In 2013, Arkansas was ranked 49th in uninsured at 22.5 percent, but since has had the nation's biggest decline in the number of uninsured, to 9.1 percent in 2015, good for 21st overall. Hospitals "have also said the program has cut the amount they're paying for treating patients without insurance."

Arkansas, where Republicans control both legislative chambers, "was the first state to win approval for its hybrid Medicaid program, created three years ago as an alternative to expanding Medicaid" under federal health reform, AP reports. "A handful of Republicans had earlier tried to block the program by refusing to approve a Medicaid budget bill that funded it. To get around opposition by some conservative Republicans, Hutchinson and legislative leaders devised an unusual parliamentary move that required supporters of the program to back a provision ending it. Democrats, who unanimously support the Medicaid expansion, reluctantly agreed to the maneuver."

"It also had the backing of some Republicans who opposed the program and had advocated its defunding," reports AP. "Hutchinson and legislative leaders warned that ending the expanded coverage would've created a $100 million budget deficit and meant significant cuts for schools, prisons and a host of other state services. The reductions would have been needed to increase funding for the state's traditional Medicaid program and for hospital care for those without insurance." (Read more)

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