Gov. Mike Beebe said Monday that he's “inclined” to expand the state's Medicaid rolls under a provision in the federal law that was ruled constitutional last week.
Beebe argued that as many as 250,000 uninsured Arkansans could benefit from the expansion with the federal government paying 100% of the costs in the first 3 years starting in 2014, ultimately reducing fed support to 90% of the costs with the state paying 10%.
“I think we need to stop and think about it,” said Beebe in a post-France trade mission press conference at the capitol.
“I'm less concerned about Democrat and Republican rhetoric in Washington, D.C… I'm worried about Arkansans.”
Beebe said it would take “a pretty dang strong argument” for him to allow Arkansas taxpayers to pay federal taxes without benefiting from the federal coverage.
“I don't want to send it to Massachusetts or California,” Beebe said.
Beebe said he still has questions about the Medicaid expansion from the Supreme Court ruling on federal health care. In essence, the court said states could not be penalized for not expanding their Medicaid programs, a rallying cry for some Republican lawmakers vowing to use th
e mechanism to stop the federal law's implementation.
Beebe said he wants answers to questions, such as can the state ratchet down its expansion in coming years if finances make it hard to support. He said it would be imperative to charter a course on the federal help before the 2013 legislative session and he expected to seek legislative input.
The Governor also said he felt the controversial issue of a health insurance exchange should be moot after the Supreme Court ruling.
“The Supreme Court ruling clears that up,” said Beebe, who said he was disappointed the state would not have more control by setting up its own exchange earlier. The Arkansas legislature, led by Republican House members, stalled efforts to set up a state-run exchange asking for administration officials to wait until the high court's ruling on the law's constitutionality.
Beebe said the state's new effort to overhaul its existing Arkansas Medicaid program had begun on July 1. The new changes seek to shift the state from a “pay for service” model to a “managed episodic care” model.
Beebe said he expected the payment reform initiative to immediately have “a projected positive impact.”
Arkansas' Surgeon General Dr. Joe Thompson and QualChoice CEO Michael Stock discussed the changes more in-depth on this week's edition of Talk Business.