DHH head: Arkansas Obamacare plan a 'step in the right direction'
Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe this week announced an agreement with the federal government whereby the state would take the money being offered to expand Medicaid, but instead use those dollars to purchase insurance for the poor through an Obamacare exchange. Gov. Bobby Jindal has refused to accept the Medicaid expansion or allow Louisiana to set up a state-level exchange. Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals Secretary Bruce Greenstein says the Arkansas plan is one step toward "a commonsense element of Medicaid modernization," but adds that the federal government "needs to go much further and begin offering states real flexibility in a more comprehensive and transparent fashion." In an email, Greenstein says he looks forward to seeing the final terms of the Arkansas agreement, but does not say whether he'd be interested in a similar deal for Louisiana; his spokespeople did not provide a response when asked about the latter point directly. Former DHH Secretary David Hood, who has criticized Jindal's refusal to expand Medicaid, praised the federal government's efforts to be flexible. Hood says a similar deal for Louisiana would be better than nothing, but worries that too many similar agreements would drive up the overall cost of health care reform. Beebe is a Democrat leading a conservative state; the Arkansas legislature would need to approve the deal. The Arkansas Times reports the deal could provide coverage to more than 200,000 uninsured Arkansas residents, while benefiting insurance companies and hospitals. —David Jacobs
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