Mike Beebe: Give GOP Time to Evaluate Medicaid Expansion

Gov. Mike Beebe told reporters Tuesday that nothing's changed in his stance on a possible expansion of Medicaid in Arkansas since before Thanksgiving.

Beebe came out in favor of Medicaid expansion in Arkansas earlier this fall. On Tuesday, he said he would not pressure to Republicans who campaigned against President Obama's health care reform and Medicaid expansion.

"Members of the General Assembly deserve to have plenty of time to observe and digest all the facts," he said. "We’ll have to make decisions before the session ends, but let's let them gather information and get comfortable with all the pros and cons before we start speculating on what path to take."

Lawmakers in a Republican-led Legislature will grapple with the issue when the 89th General Assembly convenes in February. The Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act but ruled the federal government can't force states to expand Medicaid benefits as Obama wants to do.

States that opt in to the law’s Medicaid expansion provision will see their rolls increase. In Arkansas, it's estimated that the rolls would expand by about 250,000. Complicating matters is the fact that Arkansas faces a $400 million Medicaid shortfall.

For states that participate in expansion, the federal government pay the full cost for three years. Ultimately, states will have to pay for 10 percent of the expansion.

Opponents of expansion worry that Arkansas would not be allowed to opt out should it see a budget shortfall.