Huckabee Resists Clinton Mandate

Published November 1, 2001

Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee (R) is considering a Medicaid mandate from the former Clinton administration moot, since the Bush administration has not attempted to enforce it.

In July 2000, the Health Care Financing Administration (now the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or CMS) attempted to force the state to enroll all eligible children in ARKids A, the state’s traditional Medicaid program. The mandate would have prevented the state from allowing parents the option of enrolling their children in ARKids B, a Medicaid waiver program that covers children with higher incomes.

The B waiver program requires a “small” copayment and offers fewer services than the traditional Medicaid program. Proponents of the B plan say free coverage under the traditional A program carries a “stigma” that not all families want to subject themselves to.

According to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Huckabee has wanted to allow parents of Medicaid-eligible children to choose between the two programs. Huckabee added that some “prideful” parents would prefer to enroll their children in ARKids B because they “want to contribute to their children’s health coverage” through the copayments.

A Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report noted, “Despite the Clinton administration’s order to place all Medicaid-eligible children into ARKids A, Huckabee resisted ‘in the hopes that Bush would be elected.'” After daring the Clinton administration to pull his state’s federal funding for not following the order, Huckabee said he thought the Bush administration, with Tommy Thompson as HHS secretary, would allow Arkansas to manage the programs as it saw fit.

Referring to the Clinton directive, Huckabee said, “Our thought is the administration that sent that letter is gone. That administration is gone, and we haven’t had a moment of trouble from the Bush administration.” In February, Arkansas filed a formal waiver request, which is still pending, allowing parents to choose between the two programs.

Peter Ashkenaz, a spokesperson for CMS, said in October the agency was “waiting for a response” from Arkansas before making a decision on the waiver.