Beebe taking lawmakers’ questions on Medicaid expansion to D.C.


LITTLE ROCK — Gov. Mike Beebe said Thursday that Republican legislators have provided him with a number of good questions and suggestions on Medicaid expansion that he plans to take with him to a meeting with U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

Beebe will attend a National Governors Association Meeting in Washington on Friday, and while there he plans to meet with Sebelius.

“I’m encouraged that the Republicans who have concerns about Medicaid expansion have come forth with some pretty good ideas, some pretty good suggestions,” Beebe told reporters. “Some of the suggestions mirror what some of the other Republican governors around the country have done and some of their reasons for accepting Medicaid expansion — some of the biggest Obama critics in the country. We’re going to carry those messages to the administration.”

The Legislature is considering whether to expand the state Medicaid program under the federal Affordable Care Act to include people earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. The federal government would pay the full cost of the expansion for the first three years, after which the state’s share of the cost would increase gradually to a maximum of 10 percent.

House Speaker Davy Carter, R-Cabot, told reporters Thursday that lawmakers have also given Beebe questions about the health insurance exchanges that are required under the Affordable Care Act. Some of the questions may be appropriate for Sebelius and some may not, he said.

He said the questions legislators want answered include:

—Has Ohio, where Gov. Rick Scott has said he will expand Medicaid, been given permission to enact something less than full expansion, and if so, could Arkansas get the same deal or a deal offered to any other state?

—How accurate is the state Department of Human Services’ projection that 250,000 people would be added to the Medicaid rolls under expansion?

—How accurate is DHS’ projection of the cost to serve those new beneficiaries?

—How accurate are DHS’ projections of the increase in state tax revenue resulting from the expansion?

—How much are other states spending to set up their health insurance exchanges?

—Where do things stand with Beebe’s request, submitted in October, for a waiver that would allow Arkansas to make changes to Medicaid such as requiring co-pays or drug-testing applicants?

—Would people earning between 100 percent and 138 percent of the federal poverty line be given subsidies to buy private insurance through the exchange if Arkansas does not expand Medicaid, and what would the impact of that be?

“We’re trying to gather this information to make the best decision for Arkansas that we can,” Carter said.

Several of the questions concern the accuracy of DHS’ projections. House Majority Leader Bruce Westerman, R-Hot Springs, announced earlier this week that legislative leaders are looking to hire a consultant to assist the General Assembly with Medicaid issues.

“Everybody agreed that we need to get a second set of eyes on it,” Carter said Thursday.