The Arkansas legislature on Thursday reauthorized the controversial 'Private Option' Medicaid program, the first state program to obtain a federal waiver for a Medicaid alternative. The program will now be funded through June 2016.
A fresh batch of Republican lawmakers have been threatening to put an end to the expansion experiment since entering office, but it looks like Governor Asa Hutchinson has managed to keep the peace. In January, Hutchinson asked lawmakers to continue to fund the program while putting in place a task force to find a more cost-sustainable option to cover the 213,000 people currently enrolled. The House has already approved a separate measure creating such a task force and it awaits vote in the Senate.
Despite some hue and cry from Republicans, this represents pretty balanced action. After all, the state won't be dumping any of the glut of enrollees that sought coverage under the private option, and it lets Hutchinson bide some time. According to writer David Ramsey, "waivers on steroids" will become available in 2017, so "it is in fact possible that the state could have much more flexibility to craft conservative twists on its Medicaid program."
The Arkansas Constitution requires an annual budget vote in the legislature, so we'll be hearing about this again before June 2016. For their part, hospitals support the program, which according to Modern Healthcare has saved them millions of dollars by cutting the uninsured. The dispute, as always, is over where the money comes from.
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Yet more drama at the beleaguered non-profit.
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Because nothing goes better with a pre-made kale salad than a wellness clinic.
And here's what we were reading:
- Mayo Clinic CIO Cris Ross told Healthcare IT News why the organization switched from Cerner to Epic.
- And Ezra Klein at Vox weighs in on the anti-vaxxer movement: