Tricky Politics Affecting Arkansas, Arizona Medicaid Expansions

An Arkansas special election, which was held to replace a Democratic senator who was forced to step down over ethics violations, centered on questions about the state plans to expand Medicaid. It resulted in a Republican win and takes away one vote from the "private option" expansion plan lawmakers approved last year. News outlets also provide updates from Georgia, Arizona and New Hampshire.   

The Washington Post: Medicaid Expansion Takes A Hit In Arkansas
A Democratic state senator forced to step down last year over ethics violations will be replaced by a Republican after a special election Tuesday that dealt a serious blow to Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe’s (D) push to expand Medicaid. Republican John Cooper defeated Democrat Steve Rockwell in a northeast Arkansas district based in Jonesboro in a race that had centered on whether to expand Medicaid to cover those making less than 138 percent of the federal poverty line (Wilson, 1/16). 

The Associated Press: Special Election Bodes Ill For Health Plan
Republican John Cooper’s victory in Tuesday’s special election gives Republicans a 22-13 majority in the Senate and takes away a key vote for the “private option” Medicaid expansion lawmakers approved last year. ... Under the private option plan, Arkansas is using federal Medicaid money to purchase private insurance for thousands of low-income residents (DeMillo, 1/16).

The Arizona Republic: Has Arizona GOP Rift Over Medicaid Healed?
Last year’s legislative session ended on a sour note, as the fight over Medicaid expansion extended to threats to replace Arizona House and Senate leaders and highlighted a rift in the state Republican Party. This year’s session began with the good cheer and bonhomie typical of opening day, ... Most legislators say that bygones are bygones and that they expect Republicans to work together. But, at the same time, the Republicans who broke from the caucus position opposing Medicaid expansion have been censured by local precinct committees (Pitzl, 1/16).

Georgia Health News: Legislators Share Thoughts On Medicaid Expansion
While describing how Georgia’s economy has escaped its “deep freeze,’’ Gov. Nathan Deal again showed no signs of thawing on the idea of expanding Medicaid. “The Affordable Care Act is anything but affordable and is costing our state $327 million this year,’’ Deal told lawmakers Wednesday in his State of the State speech, which touted an improved state economy. Expansion of Medicaid as called for under the ACA would cost the state even more, Deal added. “We will not allow ourselves to be coerced into expansion” (Miller, 1/16).

In other news related to Medicaid and the health law -

Stateline: ACA Spurs State Shift in Long-Term Care 
In New Hampshire, Medicaid pays for in-home care for nearly all of its developmentally disabled residents. For frail elders, the opposite is true. Most wind up in nursing homes. To remedy this imbalance, New Hampshire is taking advantage of Affordable Care Act funding for a program aimed at removing existing barriers to providing long-term care in people’s homes and communities. Known as the Balancing Incentive Payments Program, it is one of several ACA provisions designed to keep as many people as possible out of costly institutions (Vestal, 1/17).

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