LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Gov. Mike Beebe said Tuesday that the federal government has agreed to a new Medicaid expansion deal that would allow about 250,000 low-income people in Arkansas to receive federal subsidies to purchase private insurance through an exchange.
Beebe, a Democrat, has been proposing that Arkansas expand its Medicaid program under the federal health care law but has faced opposition from Republican lawmakers. He announced the new option Tuesday after meeting with lawmakers to update them on his discussions with federal officials last week in Washington.
"Basically, they've agreed to give us about everything we asked for," Beebe told reporters Tuesday.
Under the proposal, low-income citizens — those who are making up to 138 percent of the poverty line, which amounts to $15,415 per year — would receive federal Medicaid dollars to purchase private insurance. The subsidies would cover the cost of the private insurance premiums, but the state would have the flexibility to impose co-pays and other charges.
The federal government would pay the full cost of the health care expansion for the first three years, after which point the state's portion will begin to gradually increase to 10 percent of the cost.
Because private insurers would likely charge more than the state would pay for coverage under Medicaid, the new option might end up costing the federal government, and ultimately Arkansas, more than the traditional expansion of the state's Medicaid program, Beebe said. But the federal government will allow a "sunset" provision in the deal, he said, meaning the Legislature would have the option of changing the deal before the state would be responsible for any costs.