Friday, January 23, 2015

Hutchinson's private option plan would nix cost-sharing and savings accounts below poverty line

Posted By on Fri, Jan 23, 2015 at 7:43 AM

HENDREN: Sponsor of bill which would create health care task force…and make a couple of tweaks to the existing private option.
  • HENDREN: Sponsor of bill which would create health care task force…and make a couple of tweaks to the existing private option.
If you followed Gov. Asa Hutchinson's speech yesterday, you know the top line story: He is asking the legislature to fund the private option for two more years, and he's asking for a legislative task force that would lead the way on an overhaul of the state's health care system in 2017.

But there was also little piece of policy news buried in the bill filed yesterday by Hutchinson's nephew (and previously outspoken opponent of the private option) Sen. Jim Hendren. If passed, Hendren's bill would make a couple of tweaks to the existing private option. It would halt co-pays and the Health Independence Account program on private option beneficiaries below the poverty line, and it would nix future transitions of certain populations now on traditional Medicaid over to the private option. 

The main point of Hendren's bill to create the "Arkansas Health Act of 2015" is to establish the task force to make the recommendations for whatever Hutchinson's Medicaid overhaul might look like in 2017 (AsaCare?). But it also includes Section 4: "Suspension of certain changes to the Health Care Independence Program."  That's the existing private option. What are those "certain changes"?

Starting this year, for some beneficiaries, the private option was imposing co-pays and mandating participation in a version of savings accounts called Health Independence Accounts. These changes were mandated by an amendment to the private option legislation in 2014 and made possible by additional federal waivers. The private option also included language about eventually transitioning certain populations now on traditional Medicaid — very poor parents and kids on ARKids — to the private option.

Hendren's bill puts the brakes on both of these policy wrinkles. The cost-sharing and HIA accounts would still be in place for beneficiaries who make between 100-138 percent of the federal poverty level but would go away for people between 50-99 FPL. Meanwhile, the children in the ARKids program and parents who make less than 17 percent FPL — populations that were already covered by the traditional Medicaid program before the private option — will remain in Medicaid rather than eventually moving over to free private coverage, as eventually envisioned by the private option legislation. 

Section 4's stated purpose: "Ensure a focus on future improvements; and Limit the state’s exposure to additional costs."

Arkansas Department of Human Services spokesperson Amy Webb elaborated:

The rationale is twofold, that we should make sure the Independence Accounts work as expected for the 100-138 percent group before expanding (which would cost additional state funds) and that the taskforce and DHS should be focused on the long term improvement and not get bogged down with interim steps.

Both policy shifts would likely save money: The HIAs come with a price tag and moving folks from traditional Medicaid to private option plans would probably cost more (and people already covered under Medicaid before expansion aren't fully funded by the feds; they have the lower, non-expansion 70 percent match rate).

If passed, this is also good news for beneficiaries below the poverty line, who will avoid the imposition of co-pays and fees, not to mention an administratively confusing system. And advocates for beneficiaries were very concerned that moving from ARKids to private plans could cause problems in terms of access to care for kids and confusion for families. 

How's this for an ironic twist: Folks like me were worried that Hutchinson would continue the private option but add GOP-friendly tweaks that would make the policy worse. That's probably still his plan for 2017, but in the mean time? The only changes he's pushing for would actually make the policy better. 

Tags: , , , ,

Favorite

Speaking of...

Comments (8)

Showing 1-8 of 8

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-8 of 8

Add a comment

More by David Ramsey

Readers also liked…

  • It's official: Mike Huckabee has lost his mind

    Mike Huckabee's plan for winning the Republican presidential nomination is to convince primary voters there's a holy war underway against Christians.
    • Apr 24, 2015
  • Charter school accountability: Non-existent in Arkansas

    A state audit finds charter school spending violated state law, but the state Education Department says it has no responsibility for ensuring proper management of charter schools. Say what?
    • Mar 5, 2016
  • UPDATE: Hutchinson moves to cover himself on cut to War Memorial Stadium

    Gov. Asa Hutchinson apparently felt the burn from KARK's exclusive Tuesday night on his plans to cut state support of War Memorial Stadium in half beginning July 1, 2018. He has a so-far secret plan to make the stadium self-sustaining. We bet that doesn't include state support.
    • Oct 20, 2016

Most Shared

  • World leaders set to meet in Little Rock on resource access and sustainable development

    Next week a series of meetings on the use of technology to tackle global problems will be held in Little Rock by Club de Madrid — a coalition of more than 100 former democratic former presidents and prime ministers from around the world — and the P80 Group, a coalition of large public pension and sovereign wealth funds founded by Prince Charles to combat climate change. The conference will discuss deploying existing technologies to increase access to food, water, energy, clean environment, and medical care.
  • Tomb to table: a Christmas feast offered by the residents of Mount Holly and other folk

    Plus, recipes from the Times staff.
  • Fake news

    So fed up was young Edgar Welch of Salisbury, N.C., that Hillary Clinton was getting away with running a child-sex ring that he grabbed a couple of guns last Sunday, drove 360 miles to the Comet Ping Pong pizzeria in Washington, D.C., where Clinton was supposed to be holding the kids as sex slaves, and fired his AR-15 into the floor to clear the joint of pizza cravers and conduct his own investigation of the pedophilia syndicate of the former first lady, U.S. senator and secretary of state.
  • Reality TV prez

    There is almost nothing real about "reality TV." All but the dullest viewers understand that the dramatic twists and turns on shows like "The Bachelor" or "Celebrity Apprentice" are scripted in advance. More or less like professional wrestling, Donald Trump's previous claim to fame.
  • Arkansas archeologist does his job, is asked to leave

    Amid Department of Arkansas Heritage project.

Visit Arkansas

View Trumpeter Swans in Heber Springs

View Trumpeter Swans in Heber Springs

Magness Lake, in Heber Springs, is a magnet for swans

Most Viewed

Most Recent Comments

Blogroll

 

© 2016 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation