John Lyon with the Arkansas News Bureau examines who would qualify for coverage under a Medicaid expansion — a hot topic of debate among state legislators and Gov. Mike Beebe.
Arkansas is considering expansion of Medicaid through a provision of the federal health care law, which was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this summer.
The law provides that the federal government would pay for 100% of each state's Medicaid expansion beginning in 2014. The 100% guarantee would last 3 years and then the states would incrementally begin picking up a portion of the tab, eventually a full 10%.
Beebe, a Democrat, said he's “inclined” to support the expansion and says he has received preliminary word that Arkansas could opt out of the expansion in later years if budgetary constraints necessitated belt-tightening.
Republican lawmakers have raised concerns with the expansion, citing a growing reliance on the federal government as bad public policy.
State officials note that to qualify for Medicaid today an adult in Arkansas must be either disabled or impoverished, which is defined as earning up to 17% of the federal poverty level, or about $1,900 annually for an individual.
“Our Medicaid program is the most restrictive for coverage of any other state in th
e nation except Alabama,” said state Surgeon General Joe Thompson. “To be on Medicaid in our state as an adult, if you’re not pregnant, you have to make as an individual less than $3,000 a year, have less than $2,000 in assets and have a chronic condition that lasts at least 12 months.
A number of states offer Medicaid to people earning up to 100 percent of the federal poverty level.
Arkansas’ ranking near the bottom among states in Medicaid availability is related to its ranking near the bottom in income. With a median family income of $38,413, Arkansas is the third poorest state in the nation.
Arkansas also has one of the highest uninsured rates in the nation, with 25 percent of working-age Arkansans uninsured.
The average annual cost of a health insurance policy in Arkansas in 2010 was $11,816, with $7,849 paid by the insured person’s employer and $3,967 paid by the insured person, according to the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement.
You can read more from Lyon's report here.