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Arkansas will expand Medicaid

If they can do it

It's constitutional - deal with it

It’s constitutional – deal with it

[Friday], the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services notified state officials in Arkansas that it has approved the states’ Medicaid expansion plan. And this is not any old expansion plan: Arkansas will be the only state in the country that will use Medicaid dollars to purchase private health insurance for its new public program enrollees.

“CMS is pleased to approve Arkansas’s Medicaid 1115 Waiver application,” Medicare spokeswoman Emma Sandoe said in a statement. “Arkansas and CMS worked together to find flexibilities that gave the state the tools to build a program that worked for them and their residents. We appreciate the collaboration with Arkansas throughout the process and applaud their commitment to providing Arkansans with access to high-quality health coverage.”

There are about 200,000 Arkansans who qualify for the Medicaid expansion. Instead of having them enroll in the public program, like other states will do, Arkansas will send them to their new health insurance marketplace to buy individual plans. When they get to the point of purchase, the Medicaid agency will foot the tab for their health insurance coverage.

The Arkansas expansion will start open enrollment just five days from now, on Oct. 1, alongside the 25 other states planning to expand the program. Benefits will begin Jan. 1.

The idea of using Medicaid expansion funds to pay for private insurance for those that would have qualified for Medicaid under Affordable Care Act expansion guidelines was proposed earlier this year, while the Lege was in its first session. House Speaker Joe Straus seemed open to this kind of idea, but he had precious little company on his side of the aisle. The quasi-Medicaid “expansion” bill that made it out of the House before withering on the vine insisted on asking for a block grant first, as that is Rick Perry’s obsession, but maybe – MAYBE – once that door is slammed shut again there will be some willingness to look at this plan again, however imperfect it is.

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