Strengthening Medicaid is a Good Deal for Arkansas

Medicaid Toolkit

Medicaid works for Arkansas. It helps our disabled neighbors, elderly Arkansans, and thousands of children in low-income homes get care when they need it most. According to DHS officials, Medicaid will face a $138 million state budget shortfall in 2014 after help from $160 million in new state dollars ($70 million of which will be one-time funding. The potential impact of the shortfall on services is $460 million in total state and federal funding).

Thankfully, Arkansas has a chance to help solve that problem while offering health coverage to more than 250,000 of our fellow citizens. This coming session, legislators will decide whether or not to extend Medicaid services to folks in Arkansas who currently have no other option for health care. It’s a move that would save the state $372 million over the first eight years, according to the state’s Medicaid director, Andy Allison. Extending Medicaid is a good deal for Arkansas.

Members of the newly-elected legislature have said Medicaid will be one of the biggest issues of the upcoming legislative session. So far they’re right. In budget hearings yesterday, legislators and Department of Human Services officials discussed ways the program will change in the coming years. Due to the budget shortfall and lack of new revenue, officials were forced to suggest cuts to Medicaid.

To save $130 million, new “efficiencies” were suggested, including prior authorizations for dental care and some ARKids First services, accounting changes for school-based Medicaid programs, and new audits for outpatient therapies. Other measures, including a three percent cut to provider payments, are designed to save millions, but they may also restrict access to care by impacting provider participation. Actual service cuts include:

  • Eliminating adult dental care (40,000 adults affected)
  • Dropping ARHealthNetworks coverage for working adults (20,000 adults affected)
  • Restricting new enrollees for home and community based waivers for those with disabilities
  • Cutting “level 3″ nursing care for those not wholly dependent on help for daily living (up to 15,000 adults affected).

We know these services are important to families across the state.

Luckily, children were spared, for the most part, from direct cuts. However, 75,000 parents, grandparents, and other adults may not be so lucky. The state cannot afford to make the penny-wise but pound-foolish decision to cut back on current Medicaid services. Nor can we miss the opportunity to guarantee coverage to all eligible Arkansans. Not only will strengthening Medicaid give Arkansans more health coverage options, it will help some of the state’s fiscal problems by making sure rural hospitals stay in business, generating tax dollars that will stimulate the economy, and cutting down on the cost of uncompensated care – all at a cost of $0 over the first three years. In fact, DHS’s revised savings from extending Medicaid total $159 million in 2014-1015.

Today we’re releasing a Medicaid Toolkit that includes information about how Medicaid works for Arkansas and some tools to help you spread the word.

Here’s the shortened link to this blog post: http://bit.ly/ARMedicaid

Here’s a cover photo you can post to Facebook to show your support (click on the image to get the link to the full-size version):

Here’s a graphic that shows just how many Arkansans fall between the cracks, failing to meet eligibility requirements for Medicaid and the income threshhold for subsidies in the health care exchange:

If you’d like to more information about Medicaid and how we can strengthen it, you can read this report:

You can find county-specific data on Medicaid recipents, including some numbers on who would be newly-eligible, by clicking on the links below. Here you can see data on the entire state of Arkansas: