Governor Mike Beebe is expressing optimism that Arkansas’s plan to provide low-income residents with private health insurance using federal Medicaid dollars will be reapproved by the state legislature. Beebe is in our nation’s Capitol for a National Governor’s Association Conference. There, Arkansas’s private option alternative to Medicaid Expansion is receiving attention as state lawmakers here attempt to overcome a small minority who oppose the program.
Beebe spoke to reporters at an event hosted by Kaiser Health News on Monday, saying that the consequences to the state if funding for the private option isn’t passed in the legislature would be “severe and draconian budget cuts in some essential services.”
“But by its very nature I think that potential harsh remedy may be one of the reasons why [Arkansas House Speaker Davy] Carter and perhaps others may have more optimism about it passing, including me,” he said.
Beebe repeated that an 89 million dollar deficit in his proposed budget would result if the legislature refuses to reauthorize the program.
Beebe said accepting federal Medicaid money for programs like the private option is a better way of dealing with the mandates of the Affordable Care Act than not accepting expansion, since taxpayers in every state still have to pay for the program.
“These cards have been dealt the entire country,” he said. “The entire country is dealing with it in different ways, but most of these Governors now have recognized that there are major advantages to their state and to their people to take [federal Medicaid money] if they’re paying for it anyway.”
Several states, including Pennsylvania, Utah and Virginia are considering Medicaid expansion plans modeled off of Arkansas’s private option. Iowa has already sought and received federal approval for a program similar to the private option.
However, in Arkansas the private option faces an uncertain fate as the state House of Representatives is set to take its fifth vote on reauthorizing the program on Tuesday.
According to the Arkansas Department of Human Services, 102, 173 people have been determined eligible to participate in the program as of the first of February. Of those, 96, 950 people have completed the enrollment process and have signed up for private insurance plans.
You can watch the full press conference with Governor Beebe here.