Private Option Gains Enrollees, Gov. Hutchinson Requests Medicaid Cost Plan

Sep 23, 2016

Arkansas Department of Human Services Director Ciny Gillespie.
Credit Talk Business & Politics

Arkansas’s Medicaid expansion population grew by by more than 9,000 people over the previous month to a total of 317,289 in August. Meanwhile Gov. Asa Hutchinson is asking for a comprehensive plan to address the cost of the state’s entire Medicaid program.

August numbers released by the state Department of Human Services show the portion of private option participants enrolled in state-sponsored private health plans was 265,608. Those enrollees deemed medically frail and given plans in the traditional Medicaid insurance program was 23,043. An additional 28,683 people are still in the enrollment process.

This month Gov. Hutchinson wrote a letter to DHS Director Cindy Gillespie asking her department to adopt a five-year plan “to ensure the long-term sustainability” of Medicaid in the state. Hutchinson said he said he wanted a report by May 30, 2017.

“The review and plan for further reform should include recommendations related to showing the growth of exchange insurance rates, managing costs and reducing risks to the state,” Hutchinson wrote in a letter dated September 15.  

Gillespie responded that she has begun working with the heads of the Arkansas Insurance Department and the Arkansas Health Insurance Marketplace to address the Governor’s request.

File photo of Gov. Asa Hutchinson
Credit Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

“To clarify the work to be done, we are working internally to project five-year costs for the entire program, and will also coordinate our five-year analysis with The Stephen Group to ensure our assumptions are in line with those they are presenting to the Health Care Task Force. We will provide this five year outlook no later than October 15, 2016,” Gillespie wrote.

The Stephen Group was hired by the Legislative Health Care Task Force to develop recommendations for the state’s Medicaid program.

The federal government currently pays for nearly all of the cost for Arkansas’s $1.6 billion Medicaid expansion program. It’s part of the state’s overall $7 billion Medicaid budget. The state will begin picking up 5 percent of the cost of Medicaid expansion in 2017.