Thursday, January 3, 2013

Arkansas cleared for health insurance exchange; RAND study touts benefits of health law in Arkansas

Posted By on Thu, Jan 3, 2013 at 1:21 PM

CALLS FOR ACTION: Surgeon General Joe Thompson.
  • CALLS FOR ACTION: Surgeon General Joe Thompson.
The Beebe administration has received conditional federal approval to operate a health insurance exchange in partnership with the federal government beginning in 2014.

Here's a copy of the letter from the federal Health and Human Services secretary.

The health exchanges are intended to help people find affordable insurance. Republican legislators balked at having Arkansas run its own program. Rather than give control totally to the federal government, as the law allows, Arkansas instead chose a partnership approach. Lots of background here. Republicans still plan to fight implementation of the Affordable Care Act at every turn, so no step forward in this process means an end to that opposition, including in the appropriation process for agencies doing the work.

Here's the state's background page on the process.

UPDATE: And, just in time for this news, Surgeon General Joe Thompson drops another piece of information from the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement aimed at moving Arkansas forward in joining the United States on implementation of federal law (however much Republicans want to resist.)

It's a RAND Corporation study, commissioned by ACHI, of how implementation of the Affordable Care Act will affect (benefit) the Arkansas economy.

Key points from Dr. Thompson's news release:

* The various health program expansions will save 2,300 Arkansas lives a year (double my earlier seat-of-the-pants estimate based on Texas numbers.)

* It will be a personal and economic boon — 6,200 jobs, a half-billion in economic stimulus annually and insurance for 400,000 more Arkansans, against the alternative possibility of a half-million LOSING coveragte.

The RAND study projects economic impact as of 2016, when the individual and employer mandates could be fully realized. Taking into account expenditures the state would have to make for full implementation, ACA reductions in funding to hospitals for uncompensated care and the inflow of federal funding, the study projects a net increase on Arkansas’s gross domestic product (GDP) of $550 million annually, along with the creation of an estimated 6,200 jobs. The study further projects the impact for each Arkansas county in 2016, including estimates for additional revenue and new enrollment.

By 2016, if the ACA is fully implemented, the Rand study projects 400,000 Arkansans to be newly covered either through Medicaid or through the purchase of private coverage through the insurance exchange. If the state does not move forward with full implementation the study estimates that 571,000 Arkansans will be uninsured. The full report is available at www.achi.net.

Here's the full report. Carter Price, one of the authors, is a Little Rock native and Hendrix grad, I'm told.

Said Dr. Thompson in a news release:

“This independent assessment of what full implementation of increased coverage options through the ACA offers Arkansans validates a call for action. Not only would we save lives, but we would also stabilize our health care system and benefit our economy. It also would help our state catch up to what other states already offer their citizens through the Medicaid program.”

Again: Do we really need to wait for a special session to decide if Arkansas will help its own people or if it will not? Now's the time, as Gov. Beebe has said.

I've sent messages to several Republican legislative leaders for the dark side of this scenario. No response just yet.

UPDATE: But the usual shills on Republican politician public payrolls are yammering that RAND can't be trusted and Joe Thompson's group is self-interested as medical professionals and yadda yadda yadda. My response: It didn't take a genius or a think take to show that $700 million a year spent in Arkansas would create jobs or that providing more people with health insurance would save lives. Or, for that matter, that Republicans prefer not to be taxed to help the less fortunate and that the rich people who pay for their countervailing studies have their own financial self-interest at work.

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