Arkansas' Medicaid experiment helps state promote value-based care

By Annette M. Boyle

Amid the partisan divide over the Affordable Care Act, one conservative Southern state has managed to expand its Medicaid program and perhaps provide a model for effective healthcare transformation, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Arkansas' legislature took a bipartisan approach to extending Medicaid benefits under the ACA and has tied with Kentucky in leading the nation in the largest percentage decline in uninsured.

The state also changed how policymakers, doctors, hospitals, patients and the state's largest insurers--Arkansas Blue Cross Blue Shield and Arkansas Medicaid--worked together to improve outcomes and control costs, according to the article.

The Arkansas Medicaid program moved from a fee-for-service model to one that provided a bonus to primary care clinics if they could control the cost of care and achieve certain quality targets, such as regular blood glucose testing for diabetics and regular screenings for women, noted the article.

The early results are promising. The state's Medicaid costs dropped from 2013 to 2014, even as the number of patients covered rose significantly, the article adds. Unnecessary tests and antibiotics prescriptions also decreased. Elsewhere in the country, Medicaid expansion has helped states save money, largely on uncompensated care costs.

The success of Arkansas' Medicaid expansion effort, however, has put deeply conservative Gov. Asa Hutchinson in the tough position, according to the Associated Press. Though he's long been an advocate of repealing the ACA, Hutchinson is now urging GOP lawmakers to consider the consequences of ending a program that he says provides much-needed coverage to the rural state's many low-income residents.

To learn more:
- here's the AP article
- read the LA Times article

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