Former Arkansas Surgeon General Dr. Joe Thompson says the bipartisan work done with the state’s Medicaid expansion program – the Private Option, now Arkansas Works – could be a blueprint for solving the current health insurance impasse in Washington, D.C.
Appearing on this week’s edition of Talk Business & Politics, the CEO of the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement, said marketplaces without a balance of sick and healthy participants are the biggest problem to instability.
“Nationwide, the private individual marketplaces are destabilizing and many will fail because they don’t have a force like we had in Medicaid buying private coverage, so Congress must act,” said Thompson. “I think you’re going to have to have a bipartisan effort come together to find a solution for the parts of the Affordable Care Act that do work and a patch or revision or a new program for the parts of the program that do not work.”
When Arkansas took part in the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion in 2013, it in effect, put a Medicaid purchaser in the middle of a private insurance marketplace. Thompson said that guaranteed a combination of healthy and sick people in the state’s exchange.
“Too many other exchanges are only getting sick people. So incentives, penalties, reinsurance mechanisms to help stabilize those interest pools nationwide would be helpful,” Thompson said. “Any strategy that separates the healthy from the sick is going to lead to an unstable insurance product for the ill.”
Thompson sees positives and negatives in the current debate, which is parked in the U.S. Senate. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell unveiled a revised GOP healthcare plan this past week, but its fate remains uncertain for passage.
“I think in the revised Senate plan, there was a recognition that the ‘one size fits all’ benefit package needed to have some modifications, that the richness of the package may have been too broad,” he said. “I think the catastrophic package is too narrow, but to find a middle ground where there was some opportunities for folks to have more flexibility in what they purchase — I think that would be good, not only for the Arkansas marketplace but also nationwide.”
Watch Dr. Thompson’s full interview in the video below.