Gov. Mike Beebe's office has announced positive news from the federal government on the proposal to expand Medicaid by moving those eligible to coverage under private insurance programs through the new health insurance exchanges. You can read the full letter from the Secretary here. The release from the governor:
Governor Mike Beebe has received a letter from Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius expressing conceptual support for Arkansas's private option for expanding insurance coverage. The letter comes in response to a memo Arkansas sent to federal officials on March 13, generally outlining the Health Insurance Marketplace developed by legislators and the Beebe administration.
Secretary Sebelius' letter reads, in part:"On behalf of the Administration, I would like to express our interest in the innovative approach to further expanding access to health insurance coverage through plans participating in the Health Insurance Marketplace that Arkansas is considering…
The concept in the memo appears to be generally consistent with the requirements of the Medicaid statute; we look forward to reviewing your demonstration proposal."
"This is the written confirmation we've anticipated after our February meeting in Washington, D.C. Now it’s time for action in Arkansas," Beebe said. "Members of the General Assembly and my administration have built a model that will provide working Arkansans with greater access to health care through private-sector insurance companies. Our innovative approach can create a national example of a state using Medicaid premium-assistance funds in an insurance marketplace that best serves its citizens."
Legislative leaders are in the final stages of preparing bill language to accompany the required supermajority vote to use the federal funding. Beebe remains cautiously optimistic that support for the Arkansas private option continues to build.
*UPDATE: Response from Rep. John Burris: "Five weeks to write two paragraphs isn't exactly Earth-shattering. We'll file our bill today and wait for further response."