Arkansas has received official federal approval for its Medicaid waiver request, which will lead to the “private option” approved by lawmakers in April.
Gov. Mike Beebe (D) said he received a call Friday morning from HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius informing him that the Medicaid waiver request has received official federal approval.
The phone call and accompanying letter of approval and letter outlining waiver terms and conditions were a formality, but needed before the state launches its Health Insurance Marketplace on Tuesday, Oct. 1.
“Arkansas came up with its own plan to expand Medicaid using the private-insurance market, and Secretary Sebelius and her team worked to ensure that we had the flexibility to make that plan a reality,” Beebe said. “Our actions have drawn positive attention from across the country, and now we will focus on getting this insurance to the Arkansans who need it to lead healthier, more productive lives. Hopefully, this bipartisan, intergovernmental achievement can be an example for Congress as the government shutdown looms.”
Beebe also used the formal consent as the basis for his weekly radio address, in which he talked more in-depth about the forthcoming HIM exchange.
“This is an online market where you can shop for and compare health insurance plans,” Beebe said. “After continued debate over the Affordable Care Act, rhetoric is being increasingly replaced by reality. Regardless of how you felt about the law as it was being debated three years ago, it is the law of the land and has been upheld by the Supreme Court of the United States. Since the Court’s decision, my focus has been to make sure that Arkansas tax dollars are best used to help Arkansans in responsible, sensible ways.”
The exchange is expected to serve as many as 500,000 eligible Arkansans. As many as 250,000 low-income Arkansans may qualify for low-cost, government-subsidized private plans on the exchange instead of taking Medicaid insurance. Another quarter-million uninsured participants could also flood the exchange, according to state estimates.
“The Affordable Care Act is a massive undertaking, and there surely will be glitches and errors as its implementation continues,” Beebe warned. “Unfortunately, there are still some who remain politically motivated to try to crash this new system and root for its failure. In Arkansas, we will stay focused on the health of our people and the financial well-being of our state.”
The web site for the exchange is arhealthconnector.org.