Arkansas’s Unique O-Care Plan Could Be In Jeopardy Again

January 19, 2015 11:57 a.m.

Arkansas’s unique Medicaid expansion plan survived uncertain re-approval in 2014, and early signs in 2015 suggest the program could run into some trouble again.

The Associated Press reported Sunday that newly elected Republican. Gov. Asa Hutchinson is expected to address the program, which uses Medicaid dollars to pay for private coverage, in a speech this week. Arkansas’s plan must be re-approved every year.

The program is contending with Hutchinson and a batch of newly elected Republican lawmakers who ran against it. The funding must be approved by three-fourths of the state legislature every year. As TPM previously reported, getting approval in 2014 required a significant amount of horse-trading and deal-making under Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe.

Now Hutchinson is in the governor’s house, and a number of Republicans are taking office after campaigning against Obamacare. Some don’t sound interested in keeping the program around.

“I think it’s pretty clear (newly elected lawmakers are) there to make pretty significant changes, which to me means at some point ending it,” Sen. John Cooper (R) told the AP.

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Even if Hutchinson agrees to keep the so-called private option, he is expected to propose more conservative-minded changes. Senate President Jonathan Dismang told the AP that Medicaid expansion “is not going to exist in its current form.”

“I’m not hearing near as much ‘we’ve got to do away with it, we’ve got to do away with it,’ but maybe what can we do to make it even more conservative?” Rep. Kelley Linck (R), who chairs a key health committee, told the AP.

One of the ideas being floated, according to the AP, is a work requirement, which the Obama administration has rejected when proposed by other states.

More than 200,000 low-income residents are covered by Arkansas’s Medicaid expansion program.

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