Expanding Medicaid with private payers passes Arkansas legislature

Arkansas continues to be an unexpected leader in the area of Medicaid expansion: Its House and Senate have both passed legislation that would allow the state to use federal dollars to pay private insurance companies to expand the Medicaid program.

The proposal to privatize Medicaid could be a boon for insurers, particularly those operating in states where partisan politics have hindered expansion efforts. Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe, a Democrat, was able to successfully sell the private Medicaid idea to his Republican legislature.

"Many states were considering following suit depending on the Arkansas vote," Robert Field, a Drexel University law professor, told Bloomberg before the vote. "It was hopeful that Arkansas would be a middle course by expanding Medicaid and making it work with Obamacare, but reassuring conservatives it was more of a private-sector approach."

Indeed, many Republican lawmakers believe that privatizing Medicaid will help them maintain some control over the expansion, which they still overwhelming oppose, reported the Insurance Journal. "I commend my colleagues who have just cast a difficult vote in favor of the 'private option,'" House Speaker Davy Carter said. "With their support, Arkansas now leads the nation with a conservative alternative to the policy forced upon us by the federal government."

After the Senate's Wednesday vote, the legislation now moves to Beebe's office for his signature. And then the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, which already signaled initial support for the state's private Medicaid proposal, must provide final approval, Politico reported.

To learn more:
- here's the bill
- read the Bloomberg article
- see the Insurance Journal article
- check out the Politico article

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