An architect of Arkansas’ private option and one of its chief critics agree that the battle for its funding fate in the upcoming fiscal session will be to help the health insurance plan survive until more policy changes can be made in the 2015 regular session.
Appearing on this week’s Capitol View on KARK, State Sen. David Sanders (R-Little Rock), who helped craft the private option, said funding to continue the plan is imperative to move to phase two of what he envisioned.
“What was conceptual, what was an estimate, what was an actuarial report, a concept that we had come up with is operational now,” Sanders said. “Ultimately, we’ll rise and fall on the policy. We’re just in phase one. We have phase two elements that we’re working on.”
Phase two involves health savings accounts (HSAs) for private option participants.
“Right now, we’re working on the heart and soul of the private option,” Sanders added. “Originally when we started, this was going to be a pilot and now it’s much bigger and much more impactful.”
Rep. David Meeks (R-Conway) said opponents of the private option are worried about the long-term ability for the private option to be sustained. He also explained that problems that have arisen – such as reimbursement cuts to specialty doctors and the need for greater co-pays or deductibles – have brought new concerns to legislators in his camp
“It’s going to have a hard time passing in the session because there are so many things that we’ve seen crop up,” said Meeks. “In concept, it’s a good thing – getting people off the broken Medicaid system, getting them into private insurance. The big issue is the number of people we were going to put on it: Is it sustainable in the long-term, and I think as it is, it is not.”
Sanders said the time compression of the fiscal session, which starts Feb. 10, will allow lawmakers to have much more significant debates on the private option’s fate.
“I don’t know if everyone has made up their mind,” said Sanders. “Where we are today, we’ve done enough…It deserves another year at least.”
While it will take strong arguments, Meeks said some legislative opponents are open to the idea of re-upping funding to allow the program to survive to the regular session in January 2015. That would allow for policy changes to be made to assuage objections that currently exist.
“There is a good concept of doing it, there’s a lot of us who are looking at, okay how can we limit it? Maybe do something within the next year so that we can get into the  legislative session and make the tweaks that we think we need to make in order to make it sustainable in the long-term. I think that’s where you’re going to see the battle, so to speak, play out,” Meeks said.
You can watch the full interview in the video below.