Arkansas' 'Third Option' For Medicaid Expansion Draws Attention

The approach, which is under consideration by state lawmakers, has attracted the interest of conservative governors and legislators in other states who had previously opposed the program's expansion. Meanwhile, news outlets track Medicaid expansion news from Iowa and West Virginia.

NPR: Arkansas Medicaid Expansion Attracts Other States' Interest
Since the Supreme Court made the Medicaid expansion under the federal health law optional last year, states' decisions have largely split along party lines. States run by Democrats have been opting in; states run by Republicans have mostly been saying no or holding back. But now Arkansas – at the suggestion of the federal government – has suggested a third option: Enroll those newly eligible for Medicaid in the same private insurance plans available to individuals and small businesses. And some think that could shake things up. A lot (Rovner, 3/26).

The Associated Press: Ark. GOP Leader Floats Special Session On Medicaid
The top Republican in the Arkansas House on Monday said lawmakers should delay taking final action on a proposal to expand health insurance to low-income residents so state officials can answer questions about how the program would operate. Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe quickly dismissed the idea, repeating his call for lawmakers to vote on the proposal before the end of this year's legislative session (3/25).

The Associated Press: Iowa Senate Backs Medicaid Expansion Legislation
Lawmakers in the Democratic-controlled Senate approved an expansion of Iowa's Medicaid program Monday, though Republican Gov. Terry Branstad remains firmly opposed to growing the program in the state. In a 26-23 vote, split down party lines, the Senate backed the legislation. During the 90-minute debate, Democratic lawmakers argued that expanding Medicaid will provide care to more low-income Iowans with little cost to the state (3/26).

Des Moines Register: Senate Approves Medicaid Expansion Plan
The Iowa Senate approved legislation Monday night to add more than 100,000 low-income Iowans to the state-federal Medicaid health insurance program, setting up a showdown with Gov. Terry Branstad. Senate File 296 was approved 26-23 on a straight party line vote with Democrats in favor and Republicans against (Petroski, 3/25).

The Associated Press: W. Va. Diocese Joins Call For Expanding Medicaid
The leader of West Virginia's Roman Catholic community has joined the chorus urging Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin to expand Medicaid to cover more low-income residents. Bishop Michael J. Bransfield wrote the governor Friday, citing deep concerns about the health and wellbeing of West Virginians he's developed in his eight years with the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston and its 83,000 or so Catholics (3/26).

And, on the topic of health exchanges -

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Maryland House Passed Bill Further Implements Health Care Reform
A measure to further implement federal health care reform in Maryland passed the House of Delegates on a 93-43 vote Monday with little debate. The measure creates a dedicated funding stream for the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange, which is a new insurance market that will offer residents a choice of private health plans. While the exchange is on track to be up and running by Jan. 1 with federal help in the first year, the state will begin paying roughly $24 million in fiscal year 2015. The money will come from an existing 2 percent tax on insurance plans that are state-regulated (3/25).

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