Gov. Mike Beebe (D) has indicated on several occasions in recent weeks that he would support a federally-funded expansion of the state’s Medicaid program if Arkansas could opt out in the future if financial circumstances change.
On Friday (Aug. 31), Beebe received a letter from the Center for Medicaid and CHIP Services (CMS) director that said Arkansas could drop coverage of the expanded group in the future.
“A state may choose whether and when to expand, and, if a state covers the expansion group, it may decide later to drop the coverage,” said Cindy Mann, director of the CMS.
The letter outlines the years that the federal government will pay 100% of expanded Medicaid coverage (2014-2016), and it specifies that despite the flexibility, Arkansas would have to pay for a percentage of the coverage beginning in 2017. By 2020, the state would be obligated to pay 10% of the expanded Medicaid coverage.
“While states have flexibility with respect to whether and when to start or stop the expansion, the match rates that are available are tied by law to the specific calendar years noted,” Mann’s letter stated. “Ultimately, I am hopeful that state leaders will take advantage of the opportunity provided to insure their poorest families with these unusually generous federal resources while dramatically reducing the burden of uncompensated care on their hospitals and other health care providers.”
Amy Webb, communications director for the Arkansas Department of Human Services, said the letter’s receipt is too recent to have full knowledge of how the state will proceed.
“We continue to prepare for the possibility of expansion and we will wait for further guidance from Gov. Beebe,” Webb said.
Beebe has been quick to point out in recent comments that a possible Medicaid expansion would require a three-fourths majority of support from both chambers of the General Assembly.
Arkansas Republicans have expressed reservations about the Medicaid expansion and have called on the Governor to “slow the process.” The GOP legislators have also noted that there is no deadline tied to a Medicaid expansion decision.