Olga Khazan, blogging at The Atlantic, examines Arkansas as "the state where Obamacare is working." In a post up today, Khazan talks to Gov. Mike Beebe and Arkansas House Speaker Davy Carter about how the "private option" made Medicaid expansion more palatable to Republicans:
Beebe said the ultimate argument was that the Medicaid expansion would grant an escape hatch to Arkansan small businesses, who would otherwise be on the hook for either offering health insurance to their employees or paying a fine.
And conservative lawmakers were able to score one for private companies, as well.
"We felt getting people off of the government program onto private insurance is better for the state, the providers, and most importantly, for the consumer," Arkansas house speaker Davy Carter told me. "The private sector has the ability to provide coverage plans structured in a way that encourages the right behavior by the consumer and rewards positive outcomes from the provider."
Sure, this isn’t the way it was supposed to work, and in some cases the private plans can be skimpier or more expensive than Medicaid. Still, Arkansas’ story is pretty remarkable.
Khazan also says that the private option, by getting more insurance providers involved, introduced more competition that could drive down costs and improve services.
So far, more than 54,000 Arkansans eligible for Medicaid coverage have enrolled in the program -- 49,000 of those signing up under the private option. This, despite the well-publicized problems with the federal health care coverage website, healthcare.gov.
Still, Arkansas' method isn't without its critics, especially among Arkansas Republicans. The measure passed by a narrow margin in both the Arkansas House and Senate, and there have been whispers that renewing the private option during the upcoming fiscal session of the state Legislature isn't a foregone conclusion.
In short, there may be a few more chapters in the story of the private option in Arkansas.
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