Study: Arkansas tops nation for percentage of rural children on Medicaid | Arkansas Blog

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Study: Arkansas tops nation for percentage of rural children on Medicaid

Posted By on Wed, Jun 7, 2017 at 4:12 AM

Almost two-thirds of children in Arkansas’s small towns and rural areas receive health care coverage through Medicaid, according to a report released Wednesday by researchers at Georgetown University and the University of North Carolina — the highest percentage of any state in the nation.

The study, which was conducted by Georgetown’s Center for Children and Families and UNC’s North Carolina Rural Health Research Program, used county-level U.S. Census Bureau data to analyze changes in Medicaid coverage for children and adults in nonmetropolitan areas between 2008-09 and 2014-15. It found that the rate of Medicaid coverage is higher in the nation’s rural communities and small towns than in urban centers. Nationally, Medicaid covered 45 percent of children and 16 percent of adults in nonmetropolitan counties in 2014-15, compared to 38 percent of children and 15 percent of adults in metropolitan counties. (The study defines a nonmetropolitan county as one that lacks a central urban area of more than 50,000 people.)

The Medicaid figures include enrollment in the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP. In Arkansas, CHIP and Medicaid together fund ARKids A and B.

The divide between Medicaid coverage of rural and urban populations is starker in Arkansas than nationally. Among children in nonmetropolitan counties in Arkansas, 61 percent have Medicaid, compared to 46 percent of children in metropolitan counties. For Arkansan adults, the figures are 21 percent in nonmetropolitan counties and 16 percent in metropolitan counties. Arkansas experienced the nation’s eighth largest decline in the percentage of uninsured adults in nonmetropolitan counties during the years studied, from 29 percent in 2008-09 to 16 percent in 2014-15.

The findings underscore both Arkansas’s success at insuring a relatively large percentage of its population in recent decades — especially children — and the vulnerability of those gains to proposed cuts to Medicaid. The American Health Care Act, the Republican-sponsored bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in May to replace the Affordable Care Act, would cap federal Medicaid spending, and the Trump administration’s proposed budget includes further reductions to Medicaid and CHIP.

Joan Alker, the executive director of Georgetown’s Center for Children and Families and a co-author of the study, said such cuts would have a “disproportionately damaging effect on children in rural areas.” In a conference call with reporters, Alker noted that the cap proposed by the American Health Care Act would reach well beyond the low-income adult population covered by the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion to impact those populations covered by traditional Medicaid as well, such as children.

“It is a radical restructuring of the Medicaid finance system,” she said. “It’s nothing to do with the ACA; it’s just something they’re doing while they’re in the neighborhood.”

In Arkansas, broader cuts to Medicaid could threaten programs like ARKids. Marquita Little, health policy director at Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, said capping Medicaid would mean “the state … would either have to cover fewer people, cut payments to providers, or reduce or change the benefits. Since we have such a high number of children in rural areas especially that rely on Medicaid, I think we can expect that those sorts of changes would have a devastating effect.” (Arkansas Advocates has provided funding to the Arkansas Nonprofit News Network.)

The study attributes the higher Medicaid coverage rates in rural counties to demographics. “Rural areas tend to have lower household incomes, lower rates of workforce participation, and higher rates of disability — all factors associated with Medicaid eligibility,” the study’s authors say. Thirty-eight percent of Arkansas’s nonelderly population lives in small towns and rural areas, compared with 14 percent nationally.

Notably, although Arkansas has the highest percentage of rural and small-town children on Medicaid, it is not among the states that have seen the largest increase in Medicaid coverage for those children in the time period covered by the study. That is because “Arkansas was ahead of the curve nationally with the ARKids program,” Alker said. ARKids, which was created 20 years ago under Republican Gov. Mike Huckabee, succeeded in extending coverage to most uninsured children in the state, including those in rural areas. In 2008-09, 7 percent of children in nonmetropolitan counties were uninsured. By 2014-15, the rate had declined to 4 percent.

Little said the Georgetown study “confirms for us that Medicaid is a lifeline in terms of having access to adequate care, especially for rural families in Arkansas.” She also said rural areas have benefited from the Affordable Care Act and its expansion of Medicaid to include low-income adults. “Those are the communities where hospitals are still open because we expanded coverage. … We’ve seen improvements in people who are actually accessing preventative care. And, in addition to low-income families, people with chronic illnesses are benefiting the most.”

Cutting Medicaid funding, Little said, could undo much of that. “Certainly, reducing access to coverage would have the opposite effect of what we’re trying to achieve in those communities … It would just be a U-turn in terms of progress in our state.”

This reporting is courtesy of the Arkansas Nonprofit News Network, an independent, nonpartisan news project dedicated to producing journalism that matters to Arkansans.

Tags: , ,

From the ArkTimes store


Comments (6)

Showing 1-6 of 6

Add a comment

Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-6 of 6

Add a comment

More by Benjamin Hardy

  • Senate bill imperils rural health care, hospital leaders warn

    In the four years since Arkansas chose to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, Harris Medical Center in Newport has seen its “bad debt” — bills left unpaid by patients — cut in half. Eight percent of the 133-bed hospital’s patients fell into the bad debt category in 2013, the year before Arkansas created the hybrid Medicaid expansion program known as the private option (later rebranded by Governor Hutchinson as “Arkansas Works”). Today, that figure is 4 percent, according to Harris Medical Center CEO Darrin Caldwell.
    • Jul 13, 2017
  • Beyond repeal of Obamacare

    The proposed Medicaid cuts in the new U.S. Senate bill could impact coverage for 400,000 Arkansas children.
    • Jun 29, 2017
  • Victims of predatory foster parent sue former DHS employees

    Lawsuit says DHS staffers knew about abuse, did nothing.
    • Jun 6, 2017
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Federal judge wants John Goodson to explain class action maneuvering

    A show-cause order filed Monday by federal Judge P.K. Holmes of Fort Smith indicates class action attorney John Goodson has some explaining to do about the move of a class action complaint against an insurance company from federal to state court with an instant pre-packaged settlement that has been criticized as a windfall for Goodson.
    • Dec 22, 2015
  • UPDATE: Judge rethinking punishment for attorneys in insurance settlement case

    Judge P.K. Holmes is rethinking whether lawyers deserve punishment in a class action lawsuit against an insurance company abruptly pulled from his court after pending more than a year and then quickly settled in a state court.
    • Jun 24, 2016
  • Al Gore remembers Dale Bumpers

    Former Vice President Al Gore, a former U.S. Senate colleague of Dale Bumpers, sent a statement on Bumpers' death Friday:
    • Jan 3, 2016

Most Shared

  • So much for a school settlement in Pulaski County

    The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette's Cynthia Howell got the scoop on what appears to be coming upheaval in the Pulaski County School District along with the likely end of any chance of a speedy resolution of school desegregation issues in Pulaski County.
  • Riverfest calls it quits

    The board of directors of Riverfest, Arkansas's largest and longest running music festival, announced today that the festival will no longer be held. Riverfest celebrated its 40th anniversary in June. A press release blamed competition from other festivals and the rising cost of performers fees for the decision.
  • Football for UA Little Rock

    Andrew Rogerson, the new chancellor at UA Little Rock, has decided to study the cost of starting a major college football team on campus (plus a marching band). Technically, it would be a revival of football, dropped more than 60 years ago when the school was a junior college.
  • Turn to baseball

    When the world threatens to get you down, there is always baseball — an absorbing refuge, an alternate reality entirely unto itself.

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Saturday open line

    • One of the loveliest Hollywood evenings ever, comes to a crashing end when I make…

    • on July 23, 2017
  • Re: Saturday open line

    • Durango, To my great sadness, Benji decided to step back from full time work at…

    • on July 22, 2017
  • Re: Saturday open line

    • Maybe Congress has found a tiny little wringer for Donnie's tiny little member. (Baker doesn't…

    • on July 22, 2017



© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation