How Arkansas plans to change its private-option Medicaid program

Republican Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson is in favor of maintaining the state's successful Medicaid expansion program, but only under certain circumstances.

He told the state's advisory group--which he created to recommend whether to change or replace Arkansas' "private option" Medicaid program--that the federal government must allow changes that will appeal to Republican legislators, the New York Times reports.

The stakes are high for any changes that the state makes to Medicaid expansion, as Arkansas is among the states that have achieved the greatest gains in reducing the number of uninsured individuals. The state's current expansion plan uses federal dollars to purchase private insurance for low-income individuals.

Hutchinson's proposed changes include requiring enrollees whose income is above the federal poverty level to pay premiums equaling 2 percent of their household income, and shifting people below a certain income level to traditional Medicaid. Hutchinson added that individuals who qualify for employer-sponsored plans can sign up for that coverage as opposed to Medicaid which, in turn, would be less expensive.

Indiana implemented a similar private option program that requires eligible residents to contribute a small amount of health insurance premiums monthly--anywhere from $1 to $27--to a special health account. Iowa uses a cost-sharing plan as well, FierceHealthPayer previously reported.

Hutchinson had said earlier this year that he is open to keeping the state's private option Medicaid program in place until the end of 2016 but wants to form a task force to explore a future overhaul.

For more:
- here's the NYT article