Medicaid Expansion: With Arkansas 'Private' Plan Authorized For Another Year, Officials Now Focus On Possible Fixes

After surviving an effort earlier this week to defund it, supporters of the state's private option are now working on alterations that will smooth its future. Meanwhile, the back-and-forth over whether to pursue the expansion continues in Virginia and Utah.   

The Associated Press: Arkansas Officials Eye Changes to Medicaid Plan
With Arkansas’ model plan to use Medicaid funds to purchase private insurance for the poor spared for another year, backers of the nationally watched program are now focusing on changes that will be needed to keep it alive in the future. State officials and architects of the “private option” said Wednesday they’ll spend the coming weeks focusing on proposals Arkansas must submit to the federal government to alter a program that was approved last year as an alternative to expanding Medicaid under the federal health care law. The program survived a defunding attempt on Tuesday, with the House voting to reauthorize the program for another year (3/5).

PBS NewsHour: ‘Private Option’ Medicaid Expansion To Continue In Arkansas
The Arkansas experiment to use federal Medicaid dollars to help low-income people buy private health insurance plans will survive another year. This “private option” of Medicaid expansion -- which narrowly passed in the state’s House of Representatives on Tuesday after being rejected in four previous votes -- allows those below 138 percent of the poverty level to enroll in plans like Blue Cross and Blue Shield through the state’s insurance exchange. Many conservatives in the Republican-controlled legislature found that to be a much more palatable option than enrolling more people in the traditional Medicaid program, which they see as a broken and inefficient system that offers poor-quality care (Kane, 3/5).

Politico: Hillary Clinton: Obamacare Too Important To Turn Back
Hillary Clinton showed more signs of flexibility Wednesday on how Obamacare is implemented, but she insisted the law is too important to “turn the clock back.” In a question-and-answer session following a lecture at UCLA, Clinton suggested she’s open to different ways of achieving the health law’s goals. She praised Arkansas -- the state where she and her husband rose to political fame -- for carrying out a new approach to expanding Medicaid coverage, by using the federal money to buy private health insurance for more than 100,000 low-income residents (Nather, 3/5).

Norfolk Virginian-Pilot: Dems: Medicaid Expansion Means Money For Schools
Extortion. Immorality. Hypocrisy. Fiscal irresponsibility. Hostage-taking. Such words were flying Wednesday as the rhetoric got hotter than ever in the General Assembly's pitched battle over whether to expand the Medicaid health insurance program for low-income Virginians. The fight seems almost certain to delay passage of a state budget by the legislature's scheduled Saturday adjournment, setting up the possibility of a government shutdown when the new fiscal year kicks in July 1 (Sizemore and Walker, 3/6). 

The Richmond Times-Dispatch: Goodwin, 3 Ex-McDonnell Aides Urge Health Care Fix
Unusual alliances are adding pressure to the Medicaid expansion debate, with Richmond power broker William H. Goodwin Jr. and three members of former Gov. Bob McDonnell’s administration writing to House and Senate leaders urging them to expand health care to the uninsured. Former State Health Commissioner Dr. Cynthia Romero, former Secretary of Technology James D. Duffey Jr. and former Secretary of Commerce and Trade Jim Cheng wrote to House Speaker William J. Howell, R-Stafford, and Senate Democratic leader Richard L. Saslaw, Fairfax, asking them to close the Medicaid coverage gap. “We urge you to work together to find a way to close the coverage gap in health care, drawing down the federal funds that will help provide health care to the uninsured and also meet the needs of Virginia’s business community,” state the three former officials in the administration of McDonnell, a Republican who publicly opposed Medicaid expansion (Meola and Martz, 3/5).

Deseret News: Democrats Offer Full Medicaid Expansion Bill
A Democratic plan to take the full Medicaid expansion available under the Affordable Care Act surfaced Wednesday as the Legislature's GOP majority remained split over competing proposals from their ranks and Gov. Gary Herbert. SB272, sponsored by Senate Minority Leader Gene Davis, D-Salt Lake City, calls for the state to accept all of the federal money offered to provide health care coverage for Utahns who earn up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. Davis said the bill will have a hearing Friday before the Senate Health and Human Services Committee but admits it's a long shot (Roche, 3/5). 

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