Gov. Mike Beebe (D) signed the health insurance expansion measure known as the “private option” into law on Tuesday (April 23), just days after multiple high-stakes votes in the Arkansas General Assembly.
The law outlines the framework for allowing Arkansas to use Medicaid expansion money from the federal government to subsidize health insurance for low-income workers in a forthcoming health insurance exchange. The primary benefit of the law will be to provide currently uninsured citizens who earn up to 138% of the federal poverty level to obtain insurance. By some state estimates, that universe could include as many as 250,000 Arkansans.
The “private option” charges the Department of Human Services to:
• Maximize available service options;
• Promote accountability, personal responsibility, and transparency;
• Encourage and reward healthy outcomes and responsible choices; and,
• Promote efficiencies that will deliver value to taxpayers.
It also creates a Health Care Independence Program Trust Fund that will accrue money sent from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to the state for the purposes of Medicaid expansion.
Along with the agreement between the state and feds on the flexible use of the Medicaid money, the trust fund will also collect:
• Increases in premium taxes
• Reductions in uncompensated care
• Other spending reductions resulting from the “private option” plan
Additionally on Tuesday, a group called Arkansans Against Big Government, said it would push for a ballot initiative to repeal the newly enacted law.
Glen Gallas, spokesman for the group, said AABG intends to start gathering signatures for a voter referendum on the issue “of whether or not to implement Obamacare mandates in Arkansas.” The group is working to submit paperwork to Attorney General Dustin McDaniel for approval.
“The reality is that disguising Medicaid expansion by calling it ‘private option’ does not change the fact that it is still federally funded and still allows hundreds of thousands of people to become dependent on a system that is already broke,” Gallas said. “The people of Arkansas clearly did not vote for this, and they must have the opportunity to be heard on the issue.”
“We think a majority of people in Arkansas still do not want the federal government making our health care choices for us,” Gallas added. “The costs for this expansion will fall back on Arkansas taxpayers after 3 years, and Arkansas taxpayers simply cannot afford it.”