Arkansas' Private Option Could Be Model for Texas
Despite exaggerated reports of its untimely death, Arkansas’ “Private Option” coverage expansion is alive, well, and in the black.
In recent months several Republican-led states have taken steps to close their health insurance gaps and accept federal funds, Arkansas among them. Texans have closely watched our neighbor implement a unique coverage expansion plan, and there’s some recent good news.
When Texans came from across the state on March 12 to urge the Legislature to close the Texas Coverage Gap, some were met by legislators protesting that the Arkansas coverage expansion had failed, was over budget, and/or had been repealed, and therefore couldn’t be a model for Texas.
News didn’t travel across state lines very quickly, but the Private Option was reapproved by the Arkansas legislature in February. Here’s the latest on why earlier reports of the Arkansas plan’s being in peril turned out to be mistaken:
- In early months of the Arkansas waiver, legislators were concerned that the average enrollee premiums exceeded initial projections, but those rates have since dropped—by $18 since their high in April 2014, from $498 to $480—and are now well below the 2015 projected caps.
- With the costs on track, the Arkansas legislature approved continued Private Option funding in February 2015 by a substantial margin (82-16). They also approved by similar margins a bill establishing a task force to study the future shape of the program.
Arkansas is the only state that has been approved to enroll beneficiaries below the federal poverty level in the health insurance Marketplace (all other states use private Medicaid Managed Care health plans for the below-poverty income group). About 220,000 Arkansas adults were enrolled as of February 2015.
Texas has approximately one million U.S. citizen adults who are caught in the Coverage Gap. They are construction workers, home health aides, office clerks and others who don’t receive health insurance from their employers, and don’t qualify for other insurance options. 25 Texas business groups, health care leaders, and others are calling on the Legislature to accept our share of federal funding and expand coverage for Texans.
New policies for the Arkansas Private Option waiver gained federal approval recently, including a new hybrid monthly premium/“health independence account” component. You can read more about the Arkansas Private Option waiver coverage expansion, and which parts of it Texas could replicate if we pursued our own waiver, in this CPPP summary brief.