Arkansas Looks for Alternative to Medicaid Expansion

Published February 3, 2015

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced in January he will create a legislative task force to develop an alternative to the state’s Medicaid expansion, while asking the state legislature to reauthorize the premium assistance program through the end of 2016.

In his speech at UAMS Medical Center in Little Rock, Hutchinson argued the results of the expansion over the last year are mixed. Although more than 200,000 Arkansans gained coverage and costs for hospitals were cut, it created severe budget problems. The program has been dubbed the “private option” because it gives beneficiaries limited access to private health coverage instead of the state’s traditional Medicaid program,

“It is time to close this chapter and start a new one,” Hutchinson told reporters about the private option. “It is a new day for health care in Arkansas, and I pledge to work with you to find the right solution for all of Arkansas.”

Dan Greenberg, president of the Advance Arkansas Institute, applauded Hutchinson for beginning the necessary steps to address the issue.

“Gov. Hutchinson got dealt a bad hand when he was sworn into office; as a practical and political matter, he owns and bears responsibility for a large part of the future of the private option,” said Greenberg. “If Arkansas legislators respect the governor’s wishes, the private option will end as of December 31, 2016. The private option will be replaced by, as I understand it, a program that is significantly smaller in scope which devotes its resources to the truly needy.”

Matthew Glans ([email protected]) is a senior policy analyst at The Heartland Institute.