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Mar
03

Putting the brakes on

Trying to rein in the Medicaid Expansion program, House Public Health Committee members passed House Bill 1465 that would put a freeze on enrollment.

House Bill 1465, sponsored by Rep. Josh Miller, proposes the state “to create the Medicaid Expansion Enrollment Freeze Act of 2017; and to declare an emergency.”  After Miller’s bill, House Bill 1300, failed in committee on Feb. 7 for concerns of Arkansas’s ability to fund the bill, Miller proposed HB1465 would stop any future over flux of enrollees under the Medicaid Expansion program.

The bill proposes that no new enrollment could happen after July 1, 2017, but those already applied and or are enrolled do have the ability to re-enroll in the plan.  Miller did say that block grants could be a possibility for funding and that the bill has “no bearing on traditional Medicaid services.” If the bill is later signed by the Governor, a formal request to the Arkansas Department of Human Services and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services would be submitted to shut down the program.

Advocates for the bill stated that in Washington D.C., Congress is looking into having states pay 20 percent in Medicaid as opposed to the state’s 5 percent rate it is currently funding. They were concerned that if Congress was to require the state to fund 20 percent of Medicaid that the state could not afford to do so.

Some advocates testified their personal anecdotes of their experience with the Arkansas Works program where a relative was automatically enrolled in the program without consent after having a child. They said that once they were notified, they fought to get off the program. Advocates said there could be some flaws in the program that are at the tax payers’ expense and the legislature needed to “close the front door” on the program.

Proponents were afraid that the bill would freeze the program at a lower rate before the federal government made a decision on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Some suggested Arkansas may be “jumping the gun” and possibly putting a hole in the state’s budget. They inquired how many would be “left out in the cold” to be uninsured. Proponents also said that the bill would increase the number of uninsured Arkansans and it could increase insurance premiums.

For hospitals, it was suggested that with an increase of uninsured Arkansans, hospitals would have an increase of uncompensated costs. They said if funding is taken out of one “payment bucket,” then some will be taken out of a different “payment bucket,” as well.

With a 13-6 roll call vote, the House Public Health Committee passed HB1465 to “put the brakes on” the Medicaid Expansion program

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