Arkansas’s plan to expand health care coverage was at the center of a panel discussion in Washington DC Friday.
Arkansas’s approach toward implementing the Affordable Care Act by bypassing expanding Medicaid and instead providing premium subsidies for private plans is unique in the nation.
Dr. Joseph Thompson, Arkansas’s Surgeon General, said during the hearing, which was broadcasted by C-SPAN, that the state’s compromise approach was driven by a divided political climate.
“In the last legislative session in January, I would say that opened with a strong impetus not to take advantage of the Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act. After a fairly tumultuous process our Republican leadership challenged the Democratic administration to say, if we can use the commercial sector to strengthen the competitiveness of our market and to explicitly not expand Medicaid’s encroachment into our delivery system they might come along with a plan,” said Thompson.
He said that every county in Arkansas has at least 20-percent of its population uninsured, with some counties at 40% uninsured. He said the addition of nearly 250,000 people who would have been covered with Medicaid might have a significant impact on insurance companies interested in the state.
“The size of the market place, our private individual health insurance exchange, almost doubles with the Medicaid program buying in, which will increase the competitiveness of the market and potentially attract new carriers into the market state-wide,” said Thompson.
Thompson lauded advertising campaigns as critical components of reaching out to nearly half million Arkansans who don’t have insurance.
The state submitted the waiver for Arkansas’s plan on Tuesday and will begin enrolling residents in October.